Awinita Barpujari, Vamsi P. Reddy, and Stacey Quintero Wolfe
M. Harrison Snyder, Vamsi P. Reddy, Ankitha M. Iyer, Aruna Ganju, Nathan R. Selden, Jeremiah N. Johnson, Stacey Q. Wolfe, and on behalf of the Society of Neurological Surgeons and American Association of Neurological Surgeons Young Neurosurgeons Committee
The COVID-19 pandemic caused a significant disruption to residency recruitment, including a sudden, comprehensive transition to virtual interviews. The authors sought to characterize applicant experiences and perceptions concerning the change in the application, interview, and match process for neurological surgery residency during the 2020–2021 recruitment cycle.
A national survey of neurosurgical residency applicants from the 2020–2021 application cycle was performed. This survey was developed in cooperation with the Society of Neurological Surgeons (SNS) and the American Association of Neurological Surgeons Young Neurosurgeons Committee (YNC) and sent to all applicants (n = 280) who included academic video submissions to the SNS repository as part of their application package. These 280 applicants accounted for 69.6% of the total 402 neurosurgical applicants this year.
Nearly half of the applicants responded to the survey (44.3%, 124 of 280). Applicants favored additional reform of the interview scheduling process, including a centralized scheduling method, a set of standardized release dates for interview invitations, and interview caps for applicants. Less than 8% of students desired a virtual-only platform in the future, though the majority of applicants supported incorporating virtual interviews as part of the process to contain applicant costs and combining them with traditional in-person interview opportunities. Program culture and fit, as well as clinical and research opportunities in subspecialty areas, were the most important factors applicants used to rank programs. However, subjective program "fit" was deemed challenging to assess during virtual-only interviews.
Neurosurgery resident applicants identified standardized interview invitation release dates, centralized interview scheduling methods, caps on the number of interviews available to each candidate, and regulated opportunities for both virtual and in-person recruitment as measures that could significantly improve the applicant experience during and effectiveness of future neurosurgery residency application cycles. Applicants prioritized program culture and "fit" during recruitment, and a majority were open to incorporating virtual elements into future cycles to reduce costs while retaining in-person opportunities to gauge programs and their locations.
Robert Romano, Debraj Mukherjee, L. Madison Michael II, Judy Huang, M. Harrison Snyder, Vamsi P. Reddy, Katherine Guzman, Pamela Lane, Jeremiah N. Johnson, Nathan R. Selden, Stacey Q. Wolfe, and
In this article, the authors describe the impact of the COVID-19 virtual match cycle and discuss approaches to optimize future cycles through applicant and neurosurgical education leadership insights.
Anonymous surveys of neurosurgery program leaders (program directors and program chairs), program administrators (PAs), and 2020–2021 neurosurgery residency match applicants were distributed by the SNS, in conjunction with the Association of Resident Administrators in Neurological Surgery and AANS Young Neurosurgeons Committee.
Responses were received from 77 (67.0%) of 115 PAs, 119 (51.7%) of 230 program leaders, and 124 (44.3%) of 280 applicants representing geographically diverse regions. During the virtual application cycle relative to the previous year, programs received more Electronic Residency Application Service applications (mean 314.8 vs 285.3, p < 0.0001) and conducted more applicant interviews (mean 45.2 vs 39.9, p = 0.0003). More than 50% of applicants applied to > 80 programs; 60.3% received ≤ 20 interview invitations, and 9% received > 40 invitations. Overall, 65% of applicants completed ≤ 20 interviews, whereas 34.7% completed > 20 interviews. Program leaders described one 4-week home subinternship (93.3%) and two 4-week external subinternships (68.9%) as optimal neurosurgical exposure; 62.8% of program leaders found the standardized letter of recommendation template to be somewhat (47.5%) or significantly (15.3%) helpful. Applicants, PAs, and program leaders all strongly preferred a hybrid model of in-person and virtual interview options for future application cycles over all in-person or all virtual options. Ninety-three percent of applicants reported matching within their top 10–ranked programs, and 52.9% of programs matched residents within the same decile ranking as in previous years.
Optimizing a national strategy for the neurosurgery application process that prioritizes equity and reduces costs, while ensuring adequate exposure for applicants to gain educational opportunities and evaluate programs, is critical to maintain a successful training system.