Residency Program Directors' Views on Research Conducted During Medical School: A National Survey

Rachel K. Wolfson, Paige C. Fairchild, Ingrid Bahner, Dwayne M. Baxa, Deborah R. Birnbaum, Sarwat I. Chaudhry, Katherine C. Chretien, Donald B. Defranco, Amber Z. Deptola, Leslie E.W. Laconte, Jenny J. Lin, Leslie Petch Lee, Maureen A. Powers, Ira J. Ropson, Saumya M. Sankaran, Kara E. Sawarynski, Stephen M. Sozio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose With the United States Medical Licensing Examination Step 1 transition to pass/fail in 2022, uncertainty exists regarding how other residency application components, including research conducted during medical school, will inform interview and ranking decisions. The authors explore program director (PD) views on medical student research, the importance of disseminating that work, and the translatable skill set of research participation. Method Surveys were distributed to all U.S. residency PDs and remained open from August to November 2021 to query the importance of research participation in assessing applicants, whether certain types of research were more valued, productivity measures that reflect meaningful research participation, and traits for which research serves as a proxy. The survey also queried whether research would be more important without a numeric Step 1 score and the importance of research vs other application components. Results A total of 885 responses from 393 institutions were received. Ten PDs indicated that research is not considered when reviewing applicants, leaving 875 responses for analysis. Among 873 PDs (2 nonrespondents), 358 (41.0%) replied that meaningful research participation will be more important in offering interviews. A total of 164 of 304 most competitive specialties (53.9%) reported increased research importance compared with 99 of 282 competitive (35.1%) and 95 of 287 least competitive (33.1%) specialties. PDs reported that meaningful research participation demonstrated intellectual curiosity (545 [62.3%]), critical and analytical thinking skills (482 [55.1%]), and self-directed learning skills (455 [52.0%]). PDs from the most competitive specialties were significantly more likely to indicate that they value basic science research vs PDs from the least competitive specialties. Conclusions This study demonstrates how PDs value research in their review of applicants, what they perceive research represents in an applicant, and how these views are shifting as the Step 1 exam transitions to pass/fail.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1185-1195
Number of pages11
JournalAcademic Medicine
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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