Success in pediatric surgery: An updated survey of Program Directors 2020

Published:November 06, 2021DOI:


      • Pediatric Surgery is a highly competitive fellowship and understanding which applicant factors are important for interview selection and ranking per program directors is helpful.
      • Matching in pediatric surgery is complex; from a program director standpoint quality letters of recommendation, publications, support from colleagues, and general leadership and interpersonal skills are important.



      One of the most competitive surgical sub-specialty fellowships remains Pediatric Surgery (PS), which requires candidates to develop a strong and research-oriented curriculum vitae. Although some objective factors of matriculation are known, factors for the interview selection and ranking per the program directors (PDs) have not been reviewed in over a decade.


      A web-based survey of US and Canadian PS program directors (PDs) (n = 58) was used to evaluate a comprehensive list of factors in the selection criteria for PS fellowships. A mix of dichotomous, ranking, five-point Likert scale, and open-ended questions evaluated applicant characteristics, ABSITE scores, research productivity, interview day, and rank order criteria.


      Fifty-five programs responded to the survey for a 95% participation rate. PDs desired an average of two years in dedicated research and weighted first authorship and total number of publications heavily. Only 38% of programs used an ABSITE score cutoff for offering interviews; however, the majority agreed that an overall upward trend was important. Quality letters of recommendation, especially from known colleagues, carried weight when deciding to offer interviews. Interview performance, being a team player, observed interpersonal interactions, perceived operative skills and patient care, and leadership were some of the notable factors when finalizing rank lists.


      A multitude of factors define a successful matriculant, including quality of letters of recommendation, quality and quantity of publications, supportive phone calls, observed interactions, interview performance, perceptions of being team player with leadership skills as well as perceptions of good operative skills and patient care.

      Level of evidence

      Type II.

      Type of study

      Prognostic (retrospective).



      ABSITE (American board of surgery in-training examination), AOA (alpha omega alpha), APSTPD (association of pediatric surgery training program directors), ERAS (electronic residency application service), NRMP (national resident match program), PD (program director), PGY (post-graduate year), PS (pediatric surgery)
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