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Hand Surgery Fellowship Selection Criteria: A National Program Director Survey
Francesco M. Egro, MBChB, MSc, MRCS; Sai K. Vangala, MD; Vu T. Nguyen, MD; Alexander M. Spiess, MD
University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Pittsburgh, PA

Background: Sub-specialty fellowships are available for those who wish to attain additional training after the completion of plastic surgery residency. While candidate requirements and characteristics desirable for plastic surgery residency are well established, those for hand surgery fellowship training still remain unclear, as no data is available in the literature. This study aims to provide information on some of the criteria that are used to select and rank applicants for the hand surgery fellowship match. Method: A 38-question survey was sent in April 2015 to all ACGME-recognized hand surgery fellowship program directors (n=81) involved in the US match, by means of QuestionPro Survey SoftwareTM. The survey investigated the importance of a variety of factors used for selection and ranking of applicants, including medical school and residency training, research experience, fellowship interview, and candidate characteristics. A 5-point Likert scale was used to grade thirty-three factors from 1 (not at all important in making my decision) to 5 (essential in making my decision); or for five controversial factors from 1 (very negative impact in making my decision) to 5 (very positive impact in making my decision). All data was analyzed using IBM SPSSTM (IBM Corp., Armonk, N.Y.).
Results: A total of 52% (42 out of 81) of responses were received from ACGME-recognized hand surgery program directors. The most important factors were: interpersonal skills (4.6±0.7), interactions with faculty during interview and visit (4.5±0.7), evidence of professionalism and ethics (4.5±0.7), overall interview performance in the selection process (4.5±0.8), and letters of recommendation from hand surgeons (4.4±0.9). Factors that were least important included: Ph.D or equivalent (1.7±0.8), MPH, MBA, MS or equivalent (1.8±0.8), research fellowship (1.9±0.9), research grants awarded (2.3±1.0), and fluency in language(s) spoken by your patient population (2.3±1.2). Factors that have a negative impact on the selection process include: visa requirement (2.1±1.2), candidate planning to practice in the same city as the fellowship (2.4±1.0), and graduate of a foreign medical school (2.3±1.1).
Conclusion: This study provides data on hand surgery program directors’ perception of the criteria important for fellowship applicant selection. The most valued criteria appear to be interpersonal skills, interview performance, and letters of recommendation. It is our hope that program directors, residency programs, and applicants find this data useful as they prepare for and participate in the hand surgery fellowship match.

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