The Standardized Letter of Evaluation for Postgraduate Training: A Concept Whose Time Has Come?

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Abstract

A medical student’s letter of recommendation for postgraduate training applications should provide a fair and accurate assessment of academic and clinical performance, as well as define character attributes pertinent to the practice of medicine. Since its inception in 1997, the emergency medicine (EM) standardized letter of evaluation (SLOE) has evolved into an instrument that provides just such an assessment. Concise, standardized, and discriminating in its assessment of performance relevant to the practice of EM, the SLOE is judged by program directors in EM as the most valuable component of a potential resident’s application. Other specialties would benefit from such a specialty-specific perspective, which is currently lacking in most Electronic Residency Application Service application materials. Creation of specialty-specific SLOEs which define performance metrics or competencies and noncognitive personality traits critical to each unique specialty would add substantially to the holistic review of our graduating students. As a result, specialty-specific SLOEs would increase the likelihood that programs could effectively identify applicants who would not only be a “good fit” for their programs but also graduate to become successful physicians.

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