Opening the “Black Box” for Canadian Cardiac Surgery Residency Applicants∗

Klaudiusz Stoklosa, Amine Mazine, Keir A. Forgie, Amy Brown, Ali Hage, Khalid Ridwan, Charles Laurin, Jessica G.Y. Luc, Bobby Yanagawa, Terrence M. Yau

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: This study reports on the main criteria used by Canadian cardiac surgery residency program committees (RPCs) to select applicants and the perceptions of Canadian medical students interested in cardiac surgery. Methods: A 50-question online survey was sent to all 12 Canadian cardiac surgery RPCs. A similar 52-question online survey targeted at Canadian medical students interested in applying to cardiac surgery residency programs was distributed. Data from both surveys were analyzed using descriptive statistics. Results: A total of 62% of all cardiac surgery RPC members (66 of 106) participated, including committee members from all 12 programs (range: 1-12 members per program; 9%-100% response rate per program) and 67% of program directors (8 of 12). Forty-one Canadian medical students (22 pre-clerks [54%], 2 MD/PhD students [5%], and 17 clinical clerks [41%]) participated. Committee members considered the following criteria to be most important when selecting candidates: on-service clinical performance, the interview, quality of reference letters from cardiac surgeons, and completing a rotation at the target program's institution. In contrast, the following criteria relating to the candidate were considered to be less important: wanting to practice in the city or province of training, having a connection to the program location, and personally knowing committee members. Medical students’ perceptions were concordant regarding what factors are the most important but they overestimated the influence of non-clinical factors and research productivity in increasing their competitiveness. Conclusion: Canadian cardiac surgery residency programs seek applicants who demonstrate clinical excellence, as assessed by surgical rotations and reference letters from colleagues, and strong interview performance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)979-988
Number of pages10
JournalCJC Open
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2022
Externally publishedYes


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