Pedigree is a poor proxy for quality

From “Graduates of Elite Universities Get Paid More. Do They Perform Better?” an article published in the Harvard Business Review about comparing the “performance” of graduates from elite and non-elite universities:

All in all, our results suggest that hiring graduates from higher-ranked universities would lead to a nominal improvement in performance. However, the university rank alone is a poor predictor of individual job performance. Employers can get a much better deal by hiring the “right” students from lower-ranked institutions, than “anyone” from better-ranked institutions. It would also be wise to use additional tests designed to evaluate the technical and interpersonal competencies needed for the job.

Pedigree is a poor proxy for quality.

In real life, a single datapoint like school identity or the acronym of your medical degree doesn’t adequately summarize a whole person. I’ve personally benefitted from this sort of nonsense but I know better: How well you play the game is different from how good of a person you are or doctor you’ll be.

Averages don’t help you evaluate individuals.

Some people think that Step 1 going pass/fail will mean that programs will just start just interviewing people from big-name schools and other groups will be marginalized (forget for a moment the practical reality that there aren’t enough ivy league graduates to magically fill all residency spots or that every ivy league student wants to enter a “competitive” field).

Any program that really wants the best people should know enough not to do that.

And any program that doesn’t is either intellectually lazy or isn’t valuing its residents as individuals.

There are plenty of convenience metrics programs use to filter applications. Step 1. MD vs DO. US vs IMG. With unlimited applications combined with interview hoarding from well-qualified applicants, everyone is wasting a lot of time and money. The 2020-2021 virtual interview season is compounding that by removing the time constraints of physical travel.

This should be a wake-up call that we need to implement changes that allow–no, force–programs to perform holistic reviews and remove the incentive for students to shotgun-apply.

Application caps pave the way to move away from convenience metrics like Step 1, degree-type, or pedigree by giving programs a fighting chance to give applicants their due attention and forcing students to limit their applications to places they’d actually consider.

But in order for that to be fair, programs likewise need to be transparent about what they’re looking for and their interview criteria. Students need better data to know what types of programs are generally feasible so that they aren’t sending their apps to programs that are going to snub them or overutilizing the limited resources of their “safety programs.”

People who are being filtered out by ERAS deserve to know in advance not to waste their money and emotional energy applying.

Pedigree always sounds good on paper. A nice name looks good on a list just like it does on a CV.

But deep down, as scientists, we should know better.

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