How’s your fadeaway jump shot? That question would likely throw off any physician applying for otolaryngology residency training, but a new study looking at predictors of success as an otolaryngologist suggests that this might be the very question residency program directors should be asking.
Explore this issue:January 2013
Typically, United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) scores, letters of recommendation and medical school grades are the qualifications on which most resident choices are made, but this recent retrospective review published in the Archives of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery found that those factors aren’t particularly indicative of a successful otolaryngologist (2012;138(8):707-712). In fact, serious participation in athletic activities was the best determiner of a good clinician, according to the study, which used overall ratings of the graduates given by clinical faculty to determine participant scores.
This news may be a bit of a blow to applicants who have spent the last eight years or so focused on the standard measures of success, said Richard A. Chole, MD, PhD, Lindburg Professor and chairman of the department of otolaryngology at Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine in Missouri, who conducted the study with M. Allison Ogden, MD, an assistant professor of otolaryngology at the same university. “The way medicine goes now, a lot of kids go through high school, college, medical school and residency without having any experiences in which they learn to interact with their peers and supervisors in a productive manner,” he said. “They’re usually spending all of their time studying and working on good grades, often in relative isolation.”
For that reason, Anna Messner, MD, residency and pediatric otolaryngology/head and neck surgery program director at Stanford University School of Medicine in Stanford, Calif., said the correlation between participation in a team sport and proficiency as a clinician makes perfect sense. Noting that residency directors have known for a while that test performance and having good grades doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be an excellent physician, she added, “In a team sport, you learn how to support your colleagues, you learn how to interact with your colleagues, you work hard and you achieve a positive outcome together—and those are the same things we do in medicine.”
—Anna Messner, MD, Stanford University Medical Center
No Profession for a Lone Ranger
Interestingly, Dr. Chole wasn’t expecting to find anything discussion-worthy about athletic excellence when he began this study two years ago. He first started asking faculty to rate graduates of their training program as an internal quality assessment project, but he began noticing a trend that showed a lot of the higher-ranking physicians had in fact participated in a team sport. At that point, he decided to include that measure in the regression analysis he completed on the 46 graduates from their residency program over the past 10 years.