Step 1: Explore the Specialty
Before you pursue a career in General Surgery, it's important to be well informed about the specialty. We've put together a great collection of articles and resources which are essential reading for the aspiring general surgeon.
These articles will give you a better idea of the pros and cons of a career in the field, trends in the specialty, and hot-topic issues for trainees.
Step 2: Review General Surgery Match Data
General surgery can be considered a highly competitive specialty.
In the 2018 NRMP Match, 1080 allopathic medical students applied for available positions. However, 161 failed to match.
As with other competitive specialties, U.S. allopathic medical students fare better in the Match than osteopathic and international medical graduates.
The NRMP classifies osteopathic and IMG applicants as independent applicants. In 2018, 65% of independent applicants failed to match. Note that osteopathic students may also apply to osteopathic residency programs. However, positions are limited in number, and the competition is intense.
General Surgery-Charting Outcomes in the Match for U.S. MD 2018
National Resident Matching Program, Charting Outcomes in the Match: U.S. Allopathic Seniors, 2018. National Resident Matching Program, Washington, DC 2018.
General Surgery-Charting Outcomes in the Match for U.S. DO 2018
National Resident Matching Program, Charting Outcomes in the Match: U.S. Osteopathic Seniors, 2018. National Resident Matching Program, Washington, DC 2018.
General Surgery-Charting Outcomes in the Match for IMGs 2018
National Resident Matching Program, Charting Outcomes in the Match for International Medical Graduates, 2018. National Resident Matching Program, Washington, DC 2018.
Step 3: Understand Residency Selection Criteria
"Last year, we received over 1200 applications and conducted 96 personal interviews," writes the Loyola University Department of Surgery.
To maximize your chances of matching with your first-choice residency program in general surgery, you must become well informed as early as possible. In particular, you need to know the criteria residency programs use to select residents.
We recommend beginning with the following resources:
General Surgery-2018 NRMP Program Director Survey
National Resident Matching Program, Data Release and Research Committee: Results of the 2018 NRMP Program Director Survey. National Resident Matching Program, Washington, DC. 2018.
Check out these other recommended resources
Step 4: Develop your Strategy for Success
As competition for positions in the general surgery residency match intensifies, it's more important than ever to have in place the "right" strategy for success. To develop the optimal strategy, use our book, The Successful Match. It's been designated recommended or required reading by the Association of American Medical Colleges, American Medical Women's Association, and numerous allopathic and osteopathic medical schools. AMSA wrote the book "provides the medical student reader with detailed preparation for the matching process." For more powerful information, sign up for our weekly update.
Step 5: Make the Most of your Preclinical Years
The preclinical years of medical school are important for students considering a career in general surgery."While academic success is imperative, residency PDs value students who are well-rounded with experience in areas they are passionate about such as research, community service and global health," writes the Association of Women Surgeons.
Step 6: Apply for Scholarships and Awards
Winning medical school scholarships and awards can provide a major boost to your residency application, and set you apart from your peers. Awards can be placed in the application, MSPE (Dean's Letter), letters of recommendation, and CV. We have found that interviewers often ask about awards during residency interviews.
Step 7: Assess your USMLE Step 1 Score or COMLEX 1 Score
The USMLE or COMLEX is an important factor in the general surgery residency selection process. In 2018, the mean USMLE Step 1 score among matched U.S. seniors was 236 and the mean COMLEX 1 score among matched osteopathic students was 613. Among unmatched U.S. seniors and osteopathic students, the mean score was 219 and 554, respectively.
Step 8: Strive for Success During Clerkships, Observerships and Externships
Grades in required or core clerkships are very important to general surgery residency programs. In a NRMP survey of general surgery residency programs, 76% cited "grades in required clerkships" as a factor in selecting applicants to interview. General Surgery rotations are also of obvious importance to international medical graduates seeking positions in the field.
Step 9: Prepare a Powerful Residency Application
In my experience working with applicants, errors are common in the ERAS Application. Although spelling and grammatical errors are frequently seen, equally common and dangerous are the less well-appreciated errors.
Step 10: Develop a Powerful Personal Statement
In a survey of general surgery residency programs, 74% cited the personal statement as a factor in selecting applicants to interview.
"Along with USMLE scores, letters of recommendation have the most weight upon the selection committee and should include at least one from a general surgeon, preferably from an academic institution," writes the Department of Surgery at Southern Illinois University. "Research, honors in the surgery clerkship, and a strong personal statement are also factors."
Step 11: Deliver an Impressive Interview Performance
An invitation to interview is exciting news, and confirmation that you're considered a competitive candidate for a residency position. However, your work is not done, and you need to be diligent in your interview preparation to maximize your chances of success.
In one study, 57% of general surgery residency programs indicated that they base 25-50% of the final rank on the interview performance. In this same study, 37% indicated that they base over 50% of the final rank on the interview performance.
What if I didn't match?
If you were unsuccessful during your initial match cycle, you'll need to sit down with your dean or advisor to review your match strategy. In planning your reapplication, each of the steps above becomes even more important.
For those who seek additional expert assistance, we can provide that. Dr. Desai has had significant experience in helping re-applicants match successfully.
This is provided via a Strategy for Success Session. Dr. Desai will perform a comprehensive review of your credentials, assess your strengths and weaknesses, and provide you with a specific plan to implement tailored to your unique situation.