OBJECTIVE: Non-designated preliminary (NDP) general surgery residents face the daunting challenge of obtaining a categorical residency position while undertaking the rigors of a general surgery residency. This additional application cycle represents a stressful time for these trainees and limited data exists to help guide applicants and program directors regarding the factors predictive of application success. While previous studies have focused solely on applicant related factors, no study to date has evaluated the effect of the residency program structure, institutional resources, or administrative support on these outcomes. DESIGN/SETTING: A multicenter retrospective review of 10 general surgery residency programs over a 5-year period from 2014 to 2019 was performed. Applicant related information was compiled from NDP general surgery residents and the results of their attempted second application into a categorical position. Applicant factors including age, gender, standardized test scores (USMLE/ABSITE), and professional training were examined. Program and administrative structure including residency class size, number of NDP PGY-2 positions, number of assistant program directors and program director (PD) background were also examined. Primary success was defined as a NDP resident successfully obtaining a categorical position within general surgery or a surgical subspecialty. Secondary success was obtaining a categorical residency position in any field of medical practice other than surgery or a surgical subspecialty in the United States. RESULTS: A total of 260 NDP trainees were evaluated with an average age of 29.1. Almost seventy percent of applicants were male, 40% graduated from a non-U.S. medical school and 24.2% required a visa to work in the United States. Thirty 4 percent of NDPs successfully obtained a categorical surgery position and an additional 35% obtained a categorical residency position in a nonsurgical field for an overall match success rate of 68.9%. Factors associated with primary success included ABSITE score (p < 0.001), US medical school graduation (p = 0.02), visa status (p = 0.03), presence of preliminary PGY-2 positions (p = 0.02), and PD professional development time (p = 0.004). Overall success was associated USMLE Step 1 scores (p = 0.02), number of approved chiefs (p = 0.03), presence of dedicated faculty researchers (p = 0.001), and PD professional development time (p < 0.001). CONCLUSIONS: Applicant, program-related, and administrative factors all have a significant impact on the success of NDP general surgery residents in obtaining a categorical surgical position. Trainees should consider all of these factors when applying to NDP residencies and in approaching their second application cycle to maximize their likelihood of a successful match.
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