From a program director’s standpoint, the competition for residents this year has been one of the most difficult to ascertain. First, we have a pandemic preventing applicants from traveling to the institutions they have been applying to. Second, applicants can now apply to as many programs as they like without having to travel. And, finally, most programs are relying on the internet entirely for the interview experience. All these experiences are new and unique for radiology residencies. So, how can you compare the competitiveness of this year to others for the 2021 match? Is the increasing number of applicants and interviewees related to the match’s new dynamics, or is it a real increase in numbers?
Even the quality of applicants this year does not entirely help answer how competitive is diagnostic radiology. Increasing applicant quality may relate to the growing ease of interviewing with Zoom and a decreasing number of excellent canceling their interviews. Why cancel when it is so easy to complete your interview online? Nevertheless, let’s take on some of the secondary criteria and try to tackle the answer to how competitive is radiology this year using our crystal ball.
What Are Some Of The Secondary Criteria To Help Us To Determine Radiology Competitiveness For The 2021 Match?
Applicant Board Scores
No. I am a firm believer that board scores cannot measure the quality of a future radiologist. However, it is associated with future pass rate on the core exam test (another marginal exam!) And, “higher quality” applicants do tend to have higher Step I board scores. (Soon to disappear!)
So what is my first-hand experience with board scores? Of course, I am working in a microcosm. Therefore, I can’t vouch for other institutions. Nevertheless, board scores overall seem to be grossly the same as in other recent years. I have not seen a noticeable uptick in the numbers. These statistics lead me to believe; perhaps, applicant competitiveness may have marginally changed, if at all.
Residents Applying From Other Specialties
I have noticed a significant uptick in applicants applying from other subspecialties this year, especially surgery. This phenomenon only tends to happen when applicants perceive radiology as a hot field. Why sacrifice another residency and go into radiology if the prospects of finding a suitable job are not there? This secondary statistic does bode well for the increasing competitiveness of applicants.
Foreign Versus American Graduates
In more competitive years at our institution, we have tended to see a lot more students from American medical schools, fewer students from the Caribbean and foreign schools, and fewer students from D.O programs. This year’s numbers are grossly very similar to other recent years regarding the mix of students applying to our institution. So, I don’t see this as a vote for increasing competitiveness.
Amount of Research Published
More students do more research when the match is very competitive because applicants know they need it to ensure a spot. What about this year? Well, it seems to be very similar or marginally increased compared to other years. This statistic does not significantly change the outlook.
So, What Is My Final Assessment Of Radiology Competitiveness For The 2021 Match?
You would think that the pandemic would increase radiology’s desirability due to the ability to work from home and the increasing utility of imaging in the health care system. However, based on the secondary statistics, I see a similar to slightly increased match competitiveness for radiology. Like other institutions, we are interviewing more candidates. But, otherwise, the changes seem to be less significant than one might think, with little difference in board scores, similar numbers of foreign grad applicants, and overall unchanged research quantity of applicants. Of course, the one factor that can bode more increased competition from my small world is an increasing number of applicants are applying from other specialties. But, it is only one of many. All these factors add up to a similar year as the last few when it comes to radiology competitiveness. We will see what the future holds on 2021 match day!
What do you think? If your opinion differs throw me a comment or email!