Archive for the ‘Residency’ Category

Can personality tests predict your medical specialty?

Monday, December 8th, 2008

The academic advisors in the deans offices of our country’s medical schools and the public health directors looking to admit medical students who will work in under served rural areas have long pondered how to predict a medical student’s specialty choice.

Can the senior faculty member read students in an admissions interview?  Can your academic advisor help figure out which specialty will be most fulfilling for you?  Can a personality test predict which specialty or research field you’re best suited for?

After taking a Myers-Briggs test recently, I came across a field of literature dating back to the 1950s about physician specialty choices.  And nobody has looked at the difficult decisions of how to balance the career of a physician scientist using these crude tools.  But some interesting insights came out of this.  First, my personality type INTJ is associated with being a biomedical scientist/researcher (yeah!).  If you know your type, check here for career matches, which include medical specialties.

One problem with the conclusions from the Myers Briggs data doesn’t seem to hold up with time.  In the academic literature, this results in statements like “predictive validity of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator should be reexamined.”  Some of this data goes back from the 1980s, and the nature of the professions have changed considerable.  Moreover, it doesn’t tell us if these people made the correct choices–just that they made a choice based on their personality type.  It would be interesting to look at satisfaction rates based on the personalities types, perhaps within a single specialty.  But that leads to the last problem: statistics.  The ratios are pretty weak because they researchers tackled an enormous question with just a few thousand people.  And personality type is far from deterministic.

Where else might this head?  Another quote from a Family Medicine journal article from 1985 indicates this is not a new idea: “This information may be useful in health manpower planning and in examining admissions policies of medical schools and residencies.”  But since this hasn’t happened in the last 20 or so years, I think this will have to remain a pipe dream for those sensing, feeling types.

P.S. I’ve included a brief chart on specialty choice.  For example, Child Psychiatrists are more likely to be NF (two of the 4 letters from a Myers-Briggs) than the other options.  Also, I would be interested in comments about how this relates to the MD/PhD student.

ST –
sensing plus thinking (practical and matter-of-fact)
– sensing plus feeling (sympathetic and friendly)
NF –
intuition plus feeling (enthusiastic and insightful)
– intuition and thinking (logical and ingenious)
Speciality N Ratio Speciality N Ratio Speciality N Ratio Speciality N Ratio
Aerospace Medicine 20 1.37 Allergy 17 1.46 Child Psychiatry 38 1.77 Neurology 39 1.62
Preventive Medicine 12 1.37 Anesthesiology 60 1.36 Neurological Surgery 17 1.50 Pathology 92 1.54
Obstetrics &
156 1.35 Ophthalmology 48 1.32 Psychiatry 146 1.49 Psychiatry 178 146
Orthopedic Surgery 68 1.24 Occupational Medicine 21 1.29 Public Health 33 1.44 Pulmonary Diseases 26 1.45
General Practice 260 1.23 Family Practice 33 1.22 Preventive Medicine 11 1.33 Child Psychiatry 36 1.35
Dermatology 25 1.23 General Practice 217 1.18 Gastroenterology 20 1.32 Thoracic Surgery 35 1.21
Urology 35 1.20 Urology 30 1.18 Dermatology 25 1.31 Cardiolovascular
77 1.20
General Surgery 165 1.18 Pediatrics 94 1.16 Plastic Surgery 16 126 Otolaryngology 27 1.18
Anesthesiology 58 1.15 Gastroenerology 16 1.14 Cardiovascular Disease 56 1.08 Internal Medicine 313 1.16
Radiology 61 1.05 Thoracic Surgery 24 1.10 Internal Medicine 234 1.08 Neurological Surgery 16 1.14
Otolaryngology 20 1.02 Plastic Surgery 13 1.09 Pediatrics 92 1.06 Radiology 76 1.12
Family Practice 31 1.00 Obstetrics &
111 1.09 Family Practice 30 1.03 Allergy 17 1.09
Occupational Medicine 18 .97 Orthopedic Surgery 52 1.08 Thoracic Surgery 24 1.03 Plastic Surgery 17 1.07
Cardiovascular Disease 53 .96 Otolaryngology 18 1.05 Aerospace Medicine 14 1.02 Aerospace Medicine 17 1.00
Public Health 23 .94 General Surgery 123 1.00 Neurology 19 .98 Anesthesiology 58 .98
Pediatrics 81 .88 Pulmonary Disease 13 .97 Occupational Medicine 17 .97 Preventive Medicine 10 .97
Internal Medicine 195 .85 Public Health 19 .89 Radiology 52 .95 Orthopedic Surgery 62 .97
Ophthalmology 35 .84 Internal Medicine 176 87 Obstetrics &
103 .94 Gastroenterology 18 .96
Pathology 41 .80 Radiology 43 .84 Ophthalmology 37 .94 Ophthalmology 46 .95
Allergy 10 .75 Neurology 14 .78 Pathology 45 .93 Pediatrics 101 .94
Neruological Surgery 9 .75 Cardiovascular Diseases 33 .69 General Surgery 122 .93 General Surgery 148 .90
Pulmonary Diseases 10 .65 Dermatology 11 .62 General Practice 171 .86 Urology 30 .88
Thoracic Surgery 16 .64 Pathology 26 .58 Pulmonary Diseases 12 .83 Dermatology 20 .84
Gastroenterology 10 .62 Neurological Surgery 6 .57 Urology 21 .77 Occupational Medicine 18 .83
Plastic Surgery 8 .59 Aerospace Medicine 7 .55 Allergy 9 .72 Family Practice 29 .80
Psychiatry 52 .50 Psychiatry 39 .43 Orthopedic Surgery 37 .72 General Practice 191 .78
Neruology 10 .49 Child Psychiatry 7 .35 Otolaryngology 13 .71 Public Health 22 .77
Child Psychiatry 10 .44 Preventive Medicine 2 .26 Anesthesiology 25 .53 Obstetrics &
92 .68
TOTAL 1243 1089 1169 1452


Will USMLE changes affect the MD/Phd? How?

Monday, August 25th, 2008

Medical students and MD/PhD applicants have likely heard the rumors: the USMLE program sequence will be changing.  This news quickly draws the attention of those starting down the regimen of a MD/PhD program.  Most MD/PhD students currently take 2 years of medical school basic science and the USMLE step 1 exam before heading down the PhD road.  So, what changes are planned and how will these mandates change the order of the MD/PhD program as we know it?

First, the United States Medical Licensing Examination board (USMLE) has been holding hearings and writing the new principles that will guide a new exam structure since 2005.  The process is slow and the future changes still need to be defined, communicated with and approved by medical schools, state medical boards, and national medical boards.  In short, we don’t know the exact language of the changes, but we can guess what the

When will the changes happen?  The earliest year the exam would be affected would be 2011.  The USMLE board expressed the importance of providing a grace period to allow for students who have passed Step 1 to take Step 2.  This means that whatever system is in place when you begin your program, that’s the program that you’ll follow thanks to likely grandfathering clauses.

What’s changing? The full statement of principles are outlined on the USMLE website.  It’s important to note a couple things: clinical skills and basic science knowledge will be tested at the same time, so MSTP students will need some of the third year curriculum to take the test.  And they’ll need to take the exam at least 9 months before they plan to start their residency program.

One change will surely drive changes in the medical school curriculum, and favor MD PhD students.  The board’s recommendations stated:

CEUP [board] recommends that USMLE emphasize the importance of the scientific foundations of medicine in all components of the assessment process. The assessment of these foundations should occur within a clinical context or framework, to the greatest extent possible.

The hope is that this new emphasis on the exam will change the way that physicians are trained–to think more like scientists!

Read the principles of the new changes

Summer 2008 Update

Friday, July 4th, 2008

Like a garden, a website needs updating and routine maintainence.  I’ve joined the crew to help make a few updates to the site.  I appreciate Jot’s invitation to pitch in and continue the site.  The ongoing changes are  cosmetic, functional, and will bring new features to the MD/PhD community.  We want to focus on improving the transpearancy of the applications process and have some tools in mind to help you out.

Effective immediately, we’re accepting new program reviews, an important part of the site.  We hope to hear not only from those on the interview trail, but students who have experienced the site first hand.  Jot and Linda had a few guidelines that are important to keep in mind.  Fairness and a sense of journalistic integrity are important on the site.  Reviews will remain anonymous, however, we will indicate whether the reviewer has authenticated through the site.  The review structure/interface will change eventually, but that’s for a later post.  Email us or comment on this blog if you need help.

I’m developing some new tools and am excited about the new features that we’re rolling out.  Hopefully they will come to fruition before school starts–and between some travel and work in my summer vegetable garden.