For the output, Dr. Chole used the five-point scale ratings faculty members gave the graduates, while the input consisted of the following factors: MLE scores, Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society election, medical school grades, letter of recommendation, rank of the medical school, residency interview, experience as an acting intern and extracurricular activities. The analysis revealed that letters of recommendation, experience as an acting intern and musical excellence showed no correlation with higher faculty rating. Further, rank of the medical school and faculty interview were weakly correlated with the faculty rating, while excellence in a team sport actually correlated with a higher faculty rating.
Explore This IssueJanuary 2013
While Dr. Chole was surprised by the lack of correlation between the objective measures residency programs currently use, he understands the value team sports provide. “Activities where residents have to assume responsibility and hold others accountable are good indicators of success, because working in medicine now is a team [endeavor],” he said. “You can’t work as a lone ranger anymore.”
On the rating scale for physicians in the study, residents who accomplished individual achievements in athletics, such as running, weight lifting or gymnastics, were assigned one point on the grading scale. Those who had a history of athletic achievement in a team sport, such as soccer, basketball or football, received two points. Though team sports experience was weighted more heavily than individual athletics, Dr. Chole said participation in either should yield a similar benefit.
Mark Wax, MD, director of otolaryngology/head and neck surgery residency training at Oregon Health and Science University School of Medicine in Portland, Ore., agreed. “If you participate in sports, even if it’s something independent, it still involves coaching. Most sports may not be like football, with nine people on the field who need to interact, but if you’re doing track and field, you still have coaches you have to work with and take direction from, and that helps.”
Overall, the problem solving and conflict resolution skills built by participation in a sport are most critical, Dr. Wax added. “As a program director, I find it very rare for disciplinary, personality and professional issues to get up to my level. I may hear of situations or issues, but it’s usually taken care of by senior or chief residents because they perceive themselves as all [being] on one team, and the team can’t run smoothly with these issues.”
What Do You Do with This?
Although this study has generated significant buzz, questions as to just how much weight should be placed on this finding remain unanswered. Robert J. Sinard, MD, program director of otolaryngology at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, considered the association found in the study to be interesting, but “it’s a bit of information that I’m really not sure what you do with,” he said.