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The Change of USMLE Step 1 to Pass/Fail: Perspectives of the Surgery Program Director

Authors
  • Pontell, Matthew E.1
  • Makhoul, Alan T.2
  • Ganesh Kumar, Nishant3
  • Drolet, Brian C.4
  • 1 Department of Plastic Surgery, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, Tennessee
  • 2 School of Medicine, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee
  • 3 Division of Plastic Surgery, University of Michigan Hospital, Ann Arbor, Michigan
  • 4 Department of Plastic Surgery, Center for Biomedical Ethics and Society, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, Tennessee
Type
Published Article
Journal
Journal of Surgical Education
Publisher
Elsevier
Publication Date
Jul 10, 2020
Volume
78
Issue
1
Pages
91–98
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1016/j.jsurg.2020.06.034
PMID: 32654997
PMCID: PMC7347473
Source
PubMed Central
Keywords
License
Unknown

Abstract

Objective This study sought to evaluate the perspectives of surgical program directors regarding the change of USMLE Step 1 to pass/fail grading. Design Validated electronic survey. Setting Vanderbilt University Medical Center Department of Plastic Surgery. Participants Program directors of all ACMGE-accredited General Surgery, Integrated Vascular Surgery, Integrated Thoracic Surgery, and Integrated Plastic Surgery residency programs. Results The overall response rate was 55.5%. Most PDs (78.1%) disagreed with the scoring change. Only 19.6% believe this change will improve medical student well-being. For 63.5% of PDs, medical school pedigree will become more important, and 52.7% believe it will place international medical graduates at a disadvantage. Only 6.2% believe Step 2 CK should also be pass/fail, while 88.7% will increase the weight of Step 2 CK and 88.4% will now require Step 2 CK score submission with the electronic residency application service. Conclusions While well-intentioned, changing USMLE Step 1 to pass/fail may have unintended consequences and may disadvantage certain groups of applicants. The emphasis on Step 1, and resulting test-taking apprehension, will likely shift to Step 2 CK. Proponents of equitable evaluation should direct their efforts toward increasing, not decreasing, the number of objective measures available for student assessment.

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