Surgical Interest and Surgical Match for Third-Year Students: Results of a Prospective Multivariate Longitudinal Cohort Study

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Background: Numerous factors have been linked to surgical career choice, including the quality of third-year surgical clerkship. The vast majority of studies also selectively evaluate one or only a few variables that link to surgical career choice, so relative impact cannot be assessed. This study simultaneously evaluates the majority of variables linked to surgical career choice in previous research so that the relative contributions of each of these variables with respect to surgical career choice can be determined.

Study Design: Surveys before, during, and after the third-year surgical clerkship included student demographics, background, and values (eg, importance of money, controllable lifestyle), and student reactions to the third-year surgical clerkship. The dependent variables in this study included interest in surgery at the beginning and end of the clerkship and matching into a surgical residency.

Results: Both univariate and multivariate analyses generally supported findings in the literature, but the strengths of these associations reported previously might not have been accurate. In this study, the surgical resident match odds ratio for students starting the clerkship already knowing they wanted to be a surgeon was 22.46; the next highest associations were 4.65 and 3.37, which corresponded to earlier exposure to a surgical specialty and earlier exposure to general surgery, respectively. Differences in career choice for general surgeons and surgical specialists were also explored.

Conclusions: Although the experience of the clerkship is related to career choice, the largest impact of the clerkship is for those already interested in a surgical career. Interest in a surgical career largely develops before the third-year clerkship. Implications of the results for recruiting greater numbers of students into surgical careers are discussed.

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Journal of the American College of Surgeons, v. 215, issue 5, p. 599-606