American Association of Plastic Surgeons

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Unmatched. Whatís Next? Is A Preliminary Year Of Residency Or Research Fellowship Better For Reapplicants To Plastic Surgery?
Robert E. George, MD, Caroline C. Bay, BA, Sarah M. Thornton, BA, Tammy Zhong, BS, Lauren P. Feeley, BA, Aaron M. Dingle, PhD, Samuel O. Poore, MD, PhD;
University of Wisconsin, Division of Plastic Surgery, Madison, WI, USA

Purpose: Matching into a plastic and reconstructive surgery residency remains challenging. Match rates have declined since 2018, with a match rate of ~55% in 2022. Two common options before reapplying are a preliminary year of residency (PY) or a research fellowship (RF). This study investigated which option is more likely to lead to a successful match for reapplicants.
Methods: This retrospective study included all applicants to an integrated plastic surgery residency from 2015-2023. Two cohorts based on reapplication strategy (RF or PY) were created. Demographic, applicant, and match data were collected. Pearsonís Chi-squared, Fisherís exact, and Wilcoxon rank sum testing was performed.
Results: 125 reapplicants were included. 71 (57%) and 29 (23%) pursued a PY or RF, respectively. Compared to PY reapplicants, RF reapplicants had a greater mean number of first author publications (8.8 vs 3.2, p<0.001), non-first author publications (11.0 vs 6.0, p=0.021), poster presentations (9.7 vs 6.0, p=0.028), and oral presentations (12 vs 6, p<0.001). RF reapplicants were more likely to match into plastic surgery than PY reapplicants, with 21 (72%) RF reapplicants matching into plastic surgery vs 28 (39%) PY reapplicants (p=0.003). When comparing only RF and PY reapplicants who matched into any specialty, RF reapplicants were again more likely to match into plastic surgery compared to PY reapplicants (84% vs 54%, p=0.010).
Conclusions: RF reapplicants demonstrated greater research productivity than PY reapplicants. The rate of RF reapplicants matching into a plastic surgery residency was almost double the rate of PY applicants.
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