Interest in Plastic Surgery Residency: A Google Trends Analysis
Rose S. Maisner, BS, Haripriya S. Ayyala, MD
Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Rutgers-New Jersey Medical School, Newark, NJ, USA.
Background: Since 2010, the number of programs and available positions for integrated plastic surgery residency has increased, yet the match rate remains one of the lowest of all specialties, and the applicant pool remains one of the most competitive. We sought to investigate whether this increased interest in integrated programs has translated to increased online search volume regarding plastic surgery residency.
Methods: Our study uses Google Trends, a powerful online tool that analyzes changes in Google search volume over time and across various regions, to study temporal and geographic trends in search interest for terms related to plastic surgery residency from July 2009-2020 in the United States.
Results: Terms related to plastic surgery research, step 1 and 2 scores, and residency interviews had the greatest search volume, while terms related to away rotations and AOA had the least. “Independent plastic surgery track” had a greater total search volume on Google than “integrated plastic surgery residency”, and “plastic surgery fellowship” declined in search interest from July 2009 to March 2010. There was a rise in search volume for a plastic surgeon’s salary and a fall in search volume for plastic surgery research between July 2009-July 2020. However, other terms related to residency or residency applications showed no sustained upward or downward trends over time. “Plastic surgery residency” was most searched in Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio, and Missouri, while “plastic surgeon salary” was most searched in Louisiana, Texas, Arizona, and Georgia. Conclusion:: This Google Trends analysis showed discordance between the upward trend in integrated plastic surgery residency positions offered through the NRMP and relatively unchanging search interest in factors related to the plastic surgery residency application. However, interest in a plastic surgeon’s salary has increased over time, but this is not specific to plastic surgery. While online search tools can be of important predictive value, this study demonstrates that there are clearly other factors that influence medical students’ interest in plastic surgery residency besides Internet research.
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