AACOM’s latest AOA Match report shows students how they stack up
Osteopathic medical students who are weighing their chances of matching into particular specialties should download the latest Osteopathic GME Match Report, suggests Jimmy DeMeo, OMS III, who serves on the governing board of the Student Osteopathic Medical Association.
Published this fall by the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM), the report presents data from the 2012 AOA Match on graduates who snagged their first-choice specialties. The document covers AOA-approved programs in 21 specialties and the traditional rotating internship.
The measures include scores and passing rates on the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination of the United States (COMLEX-USA) and the extent to which those who matched had research, volunteer and work experience.
Graduates who matched into otolaryngology and facial plastic surgery as their first choice, for example, had the highest average score on COMLEX-USA Level 1: 616. In contrast, those matching into psychiatry as their first choice had the lowest average score for Level 1: 439. Internal medicine residents had the broadest range of scores on this exam component: a low of 279 to a high of 810.
“I found the most useful area of the match report to be the chart that lists the average COMLEX Level 1 score for each specialty,” DeMeo says. “Because I already have my Level 1 score, this chart lets me know where I’m competitive, where I may not be competitive, and where I fit in.”
DeMeo finds the AACOM report heartening because it dispels the misconception that stellar scores are required to get into certain specialties, he says.
“As a third-year student, I hear plenty of feedback from residents and attendings, and they’re always saying that surgery is very competitive,” says DeMeo, who attends the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine in Erie, Pa. “They’ll say, ‘You need at least a 600 on COMLEX to get into surgery. Don’t even bother applying if you have a lower score.’
“Now I have this report from AACOM, a reputable source, which says that for those matching into general surgery as their first choice, the scores ranged from 335 to 680. And the mean COMLEX score was 502. So someone with a score of 500 would actually be competitive.
“I feel that a lot of students may shy away from the ‘competitive’ specialties because they have information that is not entirely accurate. The AACOM report is an accurate source that makes me a lot more comfortable giving certain specialties serious consideration.”
In addition to studying for classes and the boards, osteopathic medical students often participate in volunteer activities and research projects. And many students have had relevant paid employment. The Osteopathic GME Match Report provides metrics for gauging the relative importance of these extracurricular experiences when matching into a specialty.
For example, 83% of students matching into neurological surgery as their first choice had volunteer experience, while 75% had research experience and 75% had work experience. For those matching into orthopedic surgery, 93.5% had volunteer experience, 70% had research experience and 88% had work experience.
“The AACOM report is an accurate source that makes me a lot more comfortable giving certain specialties serious consideration”
“I looked through the charts on volunteering, research and publications to see where I might be lacking,” says Shawn K. Silver, OMS II, who attends the Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine in East Lansing.
DeMeo found the chart on research experience especially intriguing because it showed that participating in research may not be as crucial as many attendings and residents make it out to be. “As students, we repeatedly hear that research is practically mandatory for certain specialties, such as anesthesiology. But the report shows that only 55% of people matching into anesthesiology had research experience.
“Some of the surgical specialties had higher percentages, but there isn’t a single one in which 100% of those who matched had research experience. This is good news for students who are at schools with fewer research opportunities.”
Produced with help from the AOA and the National Board of Osteopathic Medical Examiners, the Osteopathic GME Match Report includes detailed tables on each specialty, as well as graphs comparing specialties on specific measures. One measure Silver found interesting was membership in Sigma Sigma Phi, the honorary osteopathic service fraternity.
More than 44% of students matching into neurological surgery as their first choice are members of this fraternity compared with 0% for those matching into neuromusculoskeletal medicine.
The first table in the match report provides an overview of the relative competitiveness of each specialty. In terms of the number of first-choice applicants per position, neurological surgery is the most competitive, followed by urological surgery. By this metric, the least competitive specialties are proctology, family medicine and neuromusculoskeletal medicine.
“Paging through the AACOM report provides a wonderful bird’s eye view of data from the different specialties,” Silver says. “I haven’t decided yet what I want to pursue. I’m interested in anesthesiology, psychiatry and ophthalmology, as well as pathology. This report will be especially useful as I enter my third year. It’s great to have all of this data in one place.”
Across all fields, 68% of DO graduates matched into their first-choice specialty, according to the report.
“I’m used to hearing stories from residency directors about how they received 150 applications for two spots,” Silver says. “It put my mind at ease that the majority of people are actually getting their first choice.”