Correlation of personality assessments with standard selection criteria for neurosurgical residency applicants

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  • 1 Center for Spine Health and
  • 2 Lerner College of Medicine, Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland, Ohio;
  • 3 Department of Neurosurgery, Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore, Maryland; and
  • 4 J3Personica Research and Development, Eatontown, New Jersey
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OBJECTIVE

Neurosurgery is among the most competitive residencies, as evidenced by the high number of applicants for relatively few positions. Although it is important to recruit candidates who have the intellectual capacity and drive to succeed, traditional objective selection criteria, such as US Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) (also known as Step 1) score, number of publications, and class ranking, have not been shown to consistently predict clinical and academic success. Furthermore, these traditional objective parameters have not been associated with specific personality traits.

METHODS

The authors sought to determine the efficacy of a personality assessment in the selection of neurosurgery residents. Specifically, the aim was to determine the correlation between traditional measures used to evaluate an applicant (e.g., USMLE score, number of publications, MD/PhD status) and corresponding validated personality traits.

RESULTS

Fifty-four neurosurgery residency applicants were interviewed at the Cleveland Clinic during the 2014–2015 application cycle. No differences in validated personality scores were identified between the 46 MD applicants and 8 MD/PhD applicants. The mean USMLE score (± SD) was 252.3 ± 11.9, and those in the high-USMLE-score category (USMLE score ≥ 260) had a significantly lower “imaginative” score (a stress measure of eccentric thinking and impatience with those who think more slowly). The average number of publications per applicant was 8.6 ± 7.9, and there was a significant positive correlation (r = 0.339, p = 0.016) between greater number of publications and a higher “adjustment” score (a measure of being even-tempered, having composure under pressure). Significant negative correlations existed between the total number of publications and the “excitable” score (a measure of being emotionally volatile) (r = −0.299, p = 0.035) as well as the “skeptical” score (measure of being sensitive to criticism) (r = −0.325, p = 0.021). The average medical school rank was 25.8, and medical school rankings were positively correlated with the “imaginative” score (r = 0.287, p = 0.044).

CONCLUSIONS

This is the first study to investigate the use of personality scores in the selection of neurosurgical residents. The use of personality assessments has the potential to provide insight into an applicant's future behavior as a resident and beyond. This information may be useful in the selection of neurosurgical residents and can be further used to customize the teaching of residents and for enabling them to recognize their own strengths and weaknesses for self-improvement.

ABBREVIATIONSERAS = Electronic Residency Application Service; HDS = Hogan Development Survey; HPI = Hogan Personality Inventory; LOR = letters of recommendation; MVPI = Motives, Values, Preferences Inventory; SME = subject matter expert; USMLE = US Medical Licensing Examination.

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Contributor Notes

INCLUDE WHEN CITING Published online February 5, 2016; DOI: 10.3171/2015.7.JNS15880.

Correspondence Richard Schlenk, Center for Spine Health, Department of Neurological Surgery, Cleveland Clinic, 9500 Euclid Ave., S-40, Cleveland, OH 44195. email: schlenr@ccf.org.
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