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Optimizing The Fellowship Interview Process: Perspectives From Fellowship Applicants And Recent Graduates
*Frederick T Drake1, *Melanie L Lyden2, *Jennifer H Kuo3, *Wen T Shen4, *Lilah F Morris-Wiseman5, Sally E Carty6, Tracy S Wang7
1Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, MA;2The Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN;3College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University, New York, NY;4University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine, San Francisco, CA;5University of Arizona College of Medicine, Tuscon, AZ;6University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Boston, MA;7Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, WI

OBJECTIVE(S):
Approximately 80% of general surgery residents pursue fellowship training. A recent survey of surgery residents suggested that the fellowship interview process was excessively burdensome. However, that study included residents applying into diverse specialties; our objective was to characterize applicant goals and burdens for a single specialty in order to identify strategies for improvement.
METHODS:
A survey was developed to investigate three themes: goals of the interview process, perceived burdens, and interview alternatives. Participants included recent graduates (2013-2017) and current fellows/applicants (2017-2019) of all Comprehensive Endocrine Surgery programs accredited by the American Association of Endocrine Surgeons. Results for ranking question are presented as a mean rank [MR] reported out of the total number of selections.
RESULTS:
The response rate was 54% (n=75). 38% of applicants interviewed at ≤10, 33% at 11-15, and 28% at 16-20 programs. Prior to interviews, 30% reported having a clear first choice. Information deemed most useful in determining where to interview included previous fellows' case logs (MR 2.3/5), followed by faculty and fellows' research projects (MR 2.7 and 3.1, respectively). The most important interview goal was meeting the faculty (MR 2.4/9), followed by "behind the scenes information" and "make a good impression" (MR 3.6 and 3.7, respectively). The most significant applicant burden was expense (MR 2.1/6), followed by time away from residency (MR 3.1). 32% of applicants spent $2500-$5000, 29% spent $5000-$7500, and 18% spent $7500-$10,000. Geographic location and expense were the top two reasons applicants declined interview offers. 76% of respondents indicated that no improvements to the interview process are necessary. Alternative strategies such as video-conferencing or centralized interviews received little support (<10%).
CONCLUSIONS:
Despite identifying several burdens, survey respondents felt that in-person interviews are an important component of the fellowship application process. Indeed, 70% of applicants did not have a clear first choice prior to their interviews, and meeting the faculty was ranked as the highest-priority goal. Updated websites with relevant information (especially case numbers and research projects) are critical resources for applicants to make interview decisions. Our data illustrate the importance of individual specialties evaluating and optimizing their own processes for fellowship interviews.


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