Background: With rising applications to internal medicine programs and pending changes in United States Medical Licensing Examination Step 1 score reporting, program directors desire transparent data for comparing applicants. The Department of Medicine Letters of Recommendation (DOM LORs) are frequently used to assess applicants and have the potential to provide clearly defined data on performance including stratification of a medical school class. Despite published guidelines on the expected content of the DOM LOR, these LORs do not always meet that need. Objectives: To better understand the degree to which DOM LORs comply with published guidelines. Methods: We reviewed DOM LORs from 146 of 155 LCME-accredited medical schools in the 2019 Match cycle, assessing for compliance with published guidelines. Results: Adherence to the recommendation for DOM LORs to provide a final characterization of performance relative to peers was low (68/146, 47%). Of those that provided a final characterization, 19/68 (28%) provided a quantitative measure, and 49/68 (72%) provided a qualitative descriptor. Only 17/49 (35%) with qualitative terms described those terms, and thirteen distinct qualitative scales were identified. Ranking systems varied, with seven different titles given to highest performers. Explanations about determination of ranking groups were provided in 12% of cases. Conclusions: Adherence to published guidelines for DOM LORs varies but is generally low. For program directors desiring transparent data to use in application review, clearly defined data on student performance, stratification groupings, and common language across schools could improve the utility of DOM LORs.
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© 2021, Society of General Internal Medicine.
- letters of recommendation
- medical education
- residency application