More Is More: Drivers of the Increase in Emergency Medicine Residency Applications.



The average number of applications per allopathic applicant to emergency medicine (EM) residency programs in the United States (US) has increased significantly since 2014. This increase in applications has caused a significant burden on both programs and applicants. Our goal in this study was to investigate the drivers of this application increase so as to inform strategies to mitigate the surge.


An expert panel designed an anonymous, web-based survey, which was distributed to US allopathic senior applicants in the 2017-2018 EM match cycle via the Council of Residency Directors in Emergency Medicine and the Emergency Medicine Residents Association listservs for completion between the rank list certification deadline and release of match results. The survey collected descriptive statistics and factors affecting application decisions.


A total of 532 of 1748 (30.4%) US allopathic seniors responded to the survey. Of these respondents, 47.3% felt they had applied to too many programs, 11.8% felt they had applied to too few, and 57.7% felt that their perception of their own competitiveness increased their number of applications. Application behavior of peers going into EM was identified as the largest external factor driving an increase in applications (61.1%), followed by US Medical Licensing Exam scores (46.9%) - the latter was most pronounced in applicants who self-perceived as "less competitive." The most significant limiter of application numbers was the cost of using the Electronic Residency Application Service (34.3%).


A substantial group of EM applicants identified that they were over-applying to residencies. The largest driver of this process was individual applicant response to the behavior of their peers who were also going into EM. Understanding these motivations may help inform solutions to overapplication.






Published Version (Please cite this version)


Publication Info

Huang, Robert D, Lucienne Lutfy-Clayton, Douglas Franzen, Alexis Pelletier-Bui, David C Gordon, Zachary Jarou, Jim Cranford, Laura R Hopson, et al. (2020). More Is More: Drivers of the Increase in Emergency Medicine Residency Applications. The western journal of emergency medicine, 22(1). pp. 77–85. 10.5811/westjem.2020.10.48210 Retrieved from

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David Charles Gordon

Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine

Dr. Gordon is Associate Professor and Associate Program Director for the Department of Emergency Medicine. He also serves as an Associate Dean for Student Affairs for the Duke University School of Medicine. After receiving his MD from Harvard Medical School, he completed his residency training in Emergency Medicine at the University of Cincinnati. In 2005, he joined the Emergency Medicine faculty at Duke University and remains dedicated to the education and training of medical students and residents.

Dr. Gordon's main academic interests include the teaching and assessment of clinical reasoning, understanding and reducing cognitive errors, and the remediation of struggling learners. As a former Undergraduate Education Director for Emergency Medicine at Duke University and President of Clerkship Directors in Emergency Medicine (CDEM), he help produce educational training videos used nationally to provide instruction on patient presentations, safer sign outs, and effective consultation. 

Dr. Gordon has received multiple awards for his educational achievements including the Duke Emergency Medicine Faculty Teacher of the Year Award, Duke Emergency Medicine Distinguished Faculty Award, American College of Emergency Medicine Physicians National Faculty Teaching Award, and the Duke University School of Medicine Master Clinician/Teacher Award.

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