Pursuing Excellence: The Power of Selection Science to Provide Meaningful Data and Enhance Efficiency in Selecting Surgical Trainees

Aimee K. Gardner, Brian J. Dunkin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Introduction:As current screening methods for selecting surgical trainees are receiving increasing scrutiny, development of a more efficient and effective selection system is needed. We describe the process of creating an evidence-based selection system and examine its impact on screening efficiency, faculty perceptions, and improving representation of underrepresented minorities.Methods:The program partnered with an expert in organizational science to identify fellowship position requirements and associated competencies. Situational judgment tests, personality profiles, structured interviews, and technical skills assessments were used to measure these competencies. The situational judgment test and personality profiles were administered online and used to identify candidates to invite for on-site structured interviews and skills testing. A final rank list was created based on all data points and their respective importance. All faculty completed follow-up surveys regarding their perceptions of the process. Candidate demographic and experience data were pulled from the application website.Results:Fifty-five of 72 applicants met eligibility requirements and were invited to take the online assessment, with 50 (91%) completing it. Average time to complete was 42 ± 12 minutes. Eighteen applicants (35%) were invited for on-site structured interviews and skills testing - a greater than 50% reduction in number of invites compared to prior years. Time estimates reveal that the process will result in a time savings of 68% for future iterations, compared to traditional methodologies. Fellowship faculty (N = 5) agreed on the value and efficiency of the process. Underrepresented minority candidates increased from an initial 70% to 92% being invited for an interview and ranked using the new screening tools. Discussion: Applying selection science to the process of choosing surgical trainees is feasible, efficient, and well-received by faculty for making selection decisions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)188-192
Number of pages5
JournalAnnals of surgery
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 1 2019


  • applicant
  • diversity
  • fellowship
  • selection
  • situational judgment test
  • underrepresented minority

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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