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Medicine: a team sport?

After graduating from medical school, all doctors seeking specialty in a particular field are required to undertake some form of residency. Resident selection is a competitive and stressful process as graduate students compete for limited positions. Those who are selected are believed to be the best chance of becoming successful as both residents and future clinicians in their chosen specialty.

A recent study published in the Archives of Otolaryngology- Head and Neck Surgery journal suggests that participation in team sports may predict future success as an Otolaryngologist. This finding requires further investigation and leads us to wonder whether participation in team sports may predict future success in sports medicine? Surely those interested in becoming sports physicians are passionate sports fans and are (or have been) involved in some kind of sport?

In the study, forty six residency applications spanning ten years were retrospectively evaluated against surveys of the residents at graduation and surveys from the otolaryngology clinical faculty. Past letters of recommendation were graded, rank of the medical school, examination scores and medical school grades were considered as well as extracurricular activities. Surprisingly factors which are generally thought to be indicative of future capabilities and clinical success such as examination scores, grades and recommendations demonstrated poor correlation to higher faculty rating. However having excelled in a team sport did correlate with a higher faculty rating.   Therefore, the question must be asked, do athletes make better doctors?

Reuters, an international news agency, interviewed the lead author, Dr. Richard Chole from Washington University School of Medicine. Chole reports being surprised that higher grades and favourable medical school recommendations did not correlate with those who became great doctors at the end of residency training. “There’s a lot more to being a good doctor than answering multiple-choice questions,” Chole told Reuters Health. “In the operating room, it’s not just a principal surgeon doing the surgery — it’s an anesthesiologist and all the nurses… Unless a person is willing and able to work with a team, they don’t do well.” The researcher are now interested in undertaking a bigger and broader study to evaluate if the same finding will hold true for other medical disciplines.

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