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Cureus ; 14(2): e22630, 2022 Feb.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1835727


Introduction The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a transition to a virtual format for all medical residency and fellowship application processes. Previous studies have discussed the successful implementation of virtual interviews, but a deep analysis of how the application process has changed for orthopedic surgery fellowship programs during the pandemic is lacking. The purpose of this study was to assess how COVID-19 impacted the orthopedic spine fellowship application and selection process. Methods A web-based survey was administered to the program directors of all 75 U.S. orthopedic surgery spine fellowship programs, which often can accept both orthopedic surgery and neurosurgery trained graduates. Questions focused on the changes from the 2019-2020 application cycle to the 2020-2021 cycle. We collected data on connecting with potential applicants, the general application process, and interviews offered by programs. Univariate analyses were used to compare data from the 2020-2021 cycle with the prior 2019-2020 cycle. Results Twenty-five of the 75 contacted program directors responded to our survey (33% response rate). The percentage of programs that offered virtual open houses/meet-and-greets increased from 20% in 2019-2020 to 52% in 2020-2021 (p=0.018). Social media use was unchanged (0.0% vs. 4.0%, p>0.05). Compared to the prior year, the number of interviews offered by programs increased by 1.5 (32.7 vs. 21.9 interviews, p=0.024). There were no significant differences in the numbers of applications received by programs, interview dates available, or separate interviews each candidate completed during an interview day (p>0.05 for all). The in-person interview was the most important factor in 2019-2020 for selecting applicants, whereas the virtual interview, letters of recommendation (LOR), and research were equally ranked as the most important factors in 2020-2021. Regarding interviews, 50% of respondents would "likely" consider virtual interviews as an option in addition to in-person interviews in the future, but most (55%) answered that it was "unlikely" that virtual interviews would entirely replace in-person interviews. Conclusion Spine fellowship programs were more likely to use virtual social events to recruit potential applicants, send out more interview invitations, and equally consider LOR and research with interview performance during an entirely virtual application cycle. Half of the program directors would consider offering virtual interviews as an option for future application cycles, which may help reduce costs associated with the process.