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Mining for Gold " The Personal Statement in General Surgery Residency Candidate Selection
Gordana Rasic*, Aaron D. Richman, Donald T. Hess, Luise I. Pernar

Department of Surgery, Boston Medical Center, Boston, MA


Objective: The personal statement (PS) may be the key to identifying applications to interview as numeric data is becoming scarce and holistic application review is emphasized. This study sought to evaluate the quality and content of PSs to determine if the quality of writing or the topics addressed correlate with who is invited to interview. Design: This is a single-institution, retrospective, mixed-methods study combining quantitative analysis of PSs scores and qualitative review in which the PSs were coded based on a coding scheme that was set a priori. The coding scheme was based on literature on personal statements, attracting medical students to surgery training, and topics relevant to the mission of our hospital. Setting: Academic, safety-net hospital Participants: The study evaluated the PSs of applications submitted through the Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS) for a categorical general surgery position in our program during the 2022 match. Interventions: No intervention was implemented. Main Outcome Measure(s): In this study, the primary outcome was to determine whether the PS scores correlated with invitation to interview at our program. The secondary outcome was whether themes introduced in the PS that aligned with our institution"s mission correlated with the invitation to interview at our program. The themes of interest were a commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts (DEI), addressing social determinants of health (SDH), and service to underserved communities (SUC). Results: In total, 312 applications underwent second phase review; 112 applicants were interviewed. Due to incomplete data, 4 applications were excluded from this study. The average score for PSs was 3.7 (mode 4). The average score was 3.5 for those not invited to interview and 4 for those invited to interview. This difference is statistically significant (p<0.05). 79 of the 112 (71%) applicants invited to interview wrote about DEI, SDH, SUC, or a combination, in their personal statement. 72 of the 196 (37%) applicants not invited to interview wrote about these topics. This difference is significant (P<0.0001). A small number of applicants expressed a specific, named interest in our program, 3% of those were not invited to interview and 13% of those were invited to interview (P<0.003). Conclusions: PSs of applicants invited for an interview at our institution were scored higher and mentioned themes aligned with our institution"s mission more frequently. While a minority of applicants specifically names our training program in their personal statement, applicants who were invited to interview were much more likely to have done so. The PS quality and content is associated with who is invited to interview for a general surgery residency position at out institution. We posit that as other factors in an application become harder to interpret, the personal statement should move to greater importance in the holistic review.


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