Perceptions of the Virtual Neurosurgery Application Cycle During the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Pandemic: A Program Director Survey

Adrian E. Jimenez, Adham M. Khalafallah, Robert M. Romano, Lola B. Chambless, Stacey Quintero Wolfe, Timothy F. Witham, Judy Huang, Debraj Mukherjee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: The novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has led to a shift to virtual residency interviews for the 2020–2021 neurosurgery match, with unknown implications for stakeholders. This study seeks to analyze the perceptions of residency program directors (PDs) and associate program directors (APDs) regarding the current virtual format used for residency selection and interviews. Methods: An anonymous, 30-question survey was constructed and sent to 115 neurosurgery PDs and 26 APDs to assess respondent demographics, factors used to review applicants, perceptions of applicants and applicant engagement, perceptions of standardized letters and interview questions, the effect of the virtual interview format on various stakeholders, and the future outlook for the virtual residency interview format. Results: A total of 38 PDs and APDs completed this survey, constituting a response rate of 27.0%. Survey respondents received significantly more Electronic Residency Application Service applications in the 2020–2021 cycle compared with the 2019-2020 cycle (P = 0.0029). Subinternship performance by home-rotators, (26.3%), letters of recommendation (23.7%), and Step 1 score (18.4%) were ranked as the most important factors for evaluating candidates during the current virtual application cycle. Conclusions: Our study highlights that applicants applied to a greater number of residency programs compared with years prior, that the criteria used by PDs/APDs to evaluate applicants remained largely consistent compared to previous years, and that the virtual residency interview format may disproportionately disadvantage Doctor of Osteopathic medicine and international medical graduate applicants. Further exploring attitudes toward signaling mechanisms and standardized letters may serve to inform changes to future neurosurgery match cycles.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e590-e604
JournalWorld neurosurgery
StatePublished - Oct 2021


  • COVID-19
  • Education
  • Match
  • Neurosurgery
  • Residency

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Clinical Neurology


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