Council on Medical Student Education in Pediatrics


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COMSEP Meeting in Ottawa, ON

Poster Presentation:

COMLEX vs. USMLE: Evaluating APPD Preferences and Position on Applicant Board Examinations

J. M. Metts,Des Moines University,Des Moines,IA

COMLEX vs. USMLE: Evaluating APPD Preferences and Position on Applicant Board Examinations

Background: Medical Students must pass three board exams and complete a residency to be eligible for the practice of Pediatrics. Two exams of the series occur during medical school and are used by residency programs to evaluate medical knowledge. Allopathic (MD) students take USMLE while Osteopathic (DO) students take COMLEX. DO students are also eligible to take USMLE and some choose this option as they seek to match into an MD residency after medical school graduation. The perception of DO students is that many MD residencies require the USMLE and taking both exams is needed to match.

Methods: A survey was developed to assess the perspectives of the Association of Pediatric Program Directors (APPD) on  the relative value of COMLEX vs USMLE for DO applicants applying to MD residencies. This survey was reviewed and accepted by the APPD and sent to 199 members who provided anonymous responses. There was a 54% response rate from 39 states.

Results: 43% of respondents stated that the DO applicant and matched pool of residents for their program was between 1-10% of their total numbers. The importance of the board exam in the selection process scored an average of 3.9 on a Likert scale, 5=one of the most important aspects of an applicants’ evaluation.  86% of APPD programs do not require USMLE for consideration in their program. 57% felt that the USMLE does provide more useful information than COMLEX and 33% felt they were equally useful.

Discussion: The results of this study can be us useful for Pediatric-interested DO students, those soon to be enrolled in Osteopathic medical school and their faculty advisors. Most APPD programs consider board scores to be of significant importance to the selection process which means that students must strive for excellence in this area. DO students may feel more confident only taking COMLEX as this survey shows that 86% of MD pediatric residencies will accept COMLEX. DO students that want all options open to them may still want to take USMLE.