The Influence of Gender and Underrepresented Minority Status on Medical Student Ranking of Residency Programs

Abstract [from journal]

Background: Physician diversity is linked to improved quality of care of diverse patient populations. The transition from medical school to residency is an opportunity to improve and increase workforce diversity in all specialties. However, there is limited published literature on the factors contributing to the ranking of residency programs on women and underrepresented minorities (URMs).

Objective: To characterize factors medical students used to rank residency programs and describe any differences based on race/ethnicity or gender.

Methods: A mixed-methods study consisting of a web-based survey and semi-structured interviews with National Resident Matching Program (NRMP) participating graduates over a two-year period. The survey assessed demographics and a 6-point Likert scale rating of various factors used to rank residency programs. Unpaired student t-tests were used to compare means. A subset of students was interviewed and a modified grounded theory approach identified decision-making themes as well as the role of gender and URM status.

Results: Out of a total of 316 invitations sent, 148 completed the survey (46.8% response rate), of which 21% of respondents self-identified as URMs. The majority of respondents graduated in 2014 (53%), and were male (51%). Participants ranked program atmosphere, reputation, location, and proximity to family the highest. URM students ranked patient population (p < 0.01), revisit opportunities (p = 0.04), gender diversity (p < 0.01), and ethnic diversity (p < 0.01) significantly higher than non-URM students. Female students ranked patient population (p < 0.01) and gender diversity (p < 0.01) significantly higher than males. Qualitative findings revealed differences in perceptions by URMs and non-URMs of patient population, revisit opportunities, gender diversity, and ethnic diversity.

Conclusions: While all students prioritized pragmatic factors, women and URM students assess and weigh additional factors related to culture, inclusion, and diversity more than others. By tailoring recruitment strategies to meet the expectations of women and URMs, residency programs can better meet goals in becoming more diverse and inclusive.