For Residents

US Dermatology Residency Program Rankings Based on Academic Achievement

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The overall ranking of the top 20 US dermatology residency programs in 2014 is presented in Table 1. The top 5 programs based on each of the 3 factors most reflective of academic achievement used in the weighted ranking algorithm are presented in Tables 2 through 4.


The ranking of US residency programs involves using data in an unbiased manner while also accounting for important subjective measures. In a 2015 survey of residency applicants (n=6285), the 5 most important factors for applicants in selecting a program were the program’s ability to prepare residents for future training or position, resident esprit de corps, faculty availability and involvement in teaching, depth and breadth of faculty, and variety of patients and clinical resources.3 However, these subjective measures are difficult to quantify in a standardized fashion. In its ranking of residency programs, the Doximity Residency Navigator utilizes surveys of current residents and recent alumni as well as nominations from board-certified Doximity members.1

One of the main issues in utilizing survey data to rank residency programs is the inherent bias that most residents and alumni possess toward their own program. Moreover, the question arises whether most residents, faculty members, or recent alumni of residency programs have sufficient knowledge of other programs to rank them in a well-informed manner.

Wu et al4 used data from 2004 to perform the first algorithmic ranking of US dermatology programs, which was based on publications in 2001 to 2004, the amount of NIH funding in 2004, DF grants in 2001 to 2004, faculty lectures delivered at national conferences in 2004, and number of full-time faculty members on the editorial boards of the top 3 US dermatology journals and the top 4 subspecialty journals. Aquino et al2 provided updated rankings that utilized a weighted algorithm to collect data from 2008 related to a number of factors, including annual amount of NIH and DF funding received, number of publications by full-time faculty members, number of faculty lectures given at 5 annual society meetings, and number of full-time faculty members who were on the editorial boards of 6 dermatology journals with the highest impact factors. The top 5 ranked programs based on the 2008 data were the University of California, San Francisco (San Francisco, California); Northwestern University (Chicago, Illinois); University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania); Yale University (New Haven, Connecticut); and Stanford University (Stanford, California).2

The current ranking algorithm is more indicative of a residency program’s commitment to research and scholarship, with an assumption that successful clinical training is offered. Leading researchers in the field also are usually known to be clinical experts, but the current data does not take into account the frequency, quality, or methodology of teaching provided to residents. Perhaps the most objective measure reflecting the quality of resident education would be American Board of Dermatology examination scores, but these data are not publically available. Additional factors such as the percentage of residents who received fellowship positions; diversity of the patient population; and number and extent of surgical, cosmetic, or laser procedures performed also are not readily available. Doximity provides board pass rates for each residency program, but these data are self-reported and are not taken into account in their rankings.1

The current study aimed to utilize publicly available data to rank US dermatology residency programs based on objective measures of academic achievement. A recent study showed that 531 of 793 applicants (67%) to emergency medicine residency programs were aware of the Doximity residency rankings.One-quarter of these applicants made changes to their rank list based on this data, demonstrating that residency rankings may impact applicant decision-making.5 In the future, the most accurate and unbiased rankings may be performed if each residency program joins a cooperative effort to provide more objective data about the training they provide and utilizes a standardized survey system for current residents and recent graduates to evaluate important subjective measures.


Based on our weighted ranking algorithm, the top 5 dermatology residency programs in 2014 were Harvard University (Boston, Massachusetts); University of California, San Francisco (San Francisco, California); Stanford University (Stanford, California); University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania); and Emory University (Atlanta, Georgia).

We thank all of the program coordinators, full-time faculty members, program directors, and chairs who provided responses to our inquiries for additional information about their residency programs.


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