A six year head-to-head comparison of osteopathic and allopathic applicants to a university-based, allopathic general surgery residency

Lisa L. Schlitzkus, Christopher J. Clark, Steven C. Agle, Paul J. Schenarts

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: The number of osteopathic physicians is increasing as is the number applying to allopathic general surgery residency programs. A lack of knowledge of osteopathic schooling leads to a potential applicant bias in favor of allopathic applicants, but the 2 groups have not been compared head to head. Design: Applications over a 6-year period to an allopathic general surgery residency program were reviewed. Demographics, examination scores, employment, education, and research experience were catalogued into a database. Allopathic applicants were compared with osteopathic applicants utilizing statistical analysis. Setting: A university teaching hospital. Participants: Allopathic and osteopathic applicants to an allopathic general surgery residency program. Results: A total of 1290 applications were reviewed; 1155 allopathic and 135 osteopathic applications. Other than race, the 2 cohorts are similar in age, gender, and citizenship. The groups are not significantly different with regard to the number of letter of recommendations, volunteer activities, scholarly works, and advanced degrees. Graduates of both proceed directly to residency. A significantly higher percentage of allopathic graduates reported their United States medical licensing examination (USMLE) scores, yet when osteopaths released their USMLE transcript, they scored significantly higher on the USMLE Step 1 examination and required fewer attempts to pass. These differences do not apply to the USMLE Step 2 examination. Conclusions: No single screening tool exists for selecting a successful general surgery resident. We are seeing increased numbers of osteopathic applicants. Many criteria used to evaluate applicants do not apply to osteopathic applicants, but our comparison of common selection variables on the Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS) application did not demonstrate an overall difference. While our analysis demonstrated a statistically higher USMLE Step 1 score by osteopathic applicants, they may only self-report favorable data.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)699-704
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Surgical Education
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • United States medical licensing examination (USMLE) scores
  • allopathic vs. osteopathic
  • applicants
  • comparison
  • general surgery residency program

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Education


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