| NEW YORK
NEW YORK Aug 21 (Reuters Health) - It may not be the first
quality that most m edical r esidency p rograms evaluate in their
applicants, but a new study suggests past success in team sports
could be the best indicator of how well a doctor-in-training
will do as a resident.
When residency programs evaluate medical school applicants
for a few coveted spots, they typically consider grades,
standardized test scores, recommendations and interviews.
But researchers from one head and neck specialty program
found that a resident having excelled in team sports was a more
accurate predictor of success in the program than any of those
The results were published Monday in the journal Archives of
Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery bit.ly/NDm4xb.
Residency programs are graduate training after would-be doctors
receive medical degrees when they work under the supervision of
fully licensed physicians.
Lead researcher Dr. Richard Chole from Washington University
School of Medicine in St. Louis said he'd been "mystified" that
applicants with great grades and medical school recommendations
didn't end up necessarily being the best doctors by the end of
But now, he said, it makes sense that being part of a team
helps prepare people for a career in medicine.
"There's a lot more to being a good doctor than answering
multiple-choice questions," Chole told Reuters Health.
"In the operating room, it's not just a principal surgeon
doing the surgery -- it's an anesthesiologist and all the
nurses," he said. "Unless a person is willing and able to work
with a team, they don't do well."
Chole and co-author Dr. M. Allison Ogden evaluated the
original applications of their last 46 residents in the head and
neck training program, comparing applicant qualities with
faculty members' assessments of who ended up being a good
There was no link between applicants' scores on medical
licensing exams or their medical school recommendation letters
and the post-residency assessments, the researchers reported.
Interview scores from the application process were "weakly
correlated" with residency performance, as were the rankings of
applicants' medical schools.
MEDICINE AS TEAM SPORT
Only students' past "established excellence in a team sport"
-- as opposed to mere proficiency in an athletic skill, or no
sports experience -- was clearly linked to faculty members'
"Team sports are actually a very telling thing. That's what
medicine is nowadays," said Dr. Marvin Fried, an
otorhinolaryngologist from Albert Einstein College of Medicine
and Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, New York.
"If they have achieved well as team player, they tend to do
the same as a professional physician," Fried, who wasn't
involved in the new study, told Reuters Health.
Chole said the results of the study have already changed the
way he and his colleagues evaluate applicants for their
residency programs. Rather than focusing on test scores and
grades, he said they're now looking for evidence that a
candidate has experience in something that requires teamwork,
like a sport or a musical group.
"It's disturbing really that the goal of most medical
students is just to get great grades," he said.
The researchers are looking to conduct a bigger study across
more residency programs and possibly other disciplines, Chole
added. The current research was "not a very rigorously done
study; it was sort of ad hoc," he said.
What's more, he said, his team's sample was skewed: all of
the residents were very good students to begin with. It's
possible that if the study included medical students with much
lower grades and test scores, there would be a clearer
difference in which ones went on to make good doctors based on
Still, Chole said those limitations don't change the main
"We really look at this as a combination of being able to
hold others accountable for what they do, holding yourself
accountable and having others hold you accountable," he said.
"Medicine is a team sport."
(Editing by Christine Soares, Michele Gershberg and Cynthia