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J Am Coll Surg. 2005 Jun;200(6):946-53.

Potential targets to encourage a surgical career.

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  • 1Department of Surgery, Stanford University Medical Center, Stanford, CA 94305, USA.



Our goal was to identify factors that can be targeted during medical education to encourage a career in surgery.


We conducted a cross-sectional survey of first and fourth year classes in a Liaison Committee on Medical Education-accredited medical school. Students scored 19 items about perceptions of surgery using a Likert-type scale. Students also indicated their gender and ranked their top three career choices.


There were 121 of 210 (58%) first year and 110 of 212 (52%) fourth year students who completed the survey. First year students expressed a positive correlation between surgery and career opportunities, intellectual challenge, performing technical procedures, and obtaining a residency position, although length of training, work hours, and lifestyle during and after training were negatively correlated with choosing surgery. Fourth year student responses correlated positively with career and academic opportunities, intellectual challenge, technical skills, role models, prestige, and financial rewards. Factors that correlated negatively were length of training, residency lifestyle, hours, call schedule, and female gender of the student respondent. Forty-four percent of first year male students expressed an interest in surgery versus 27% of fourth year male students (p < 0.04). Eighteen percent of first year female students expressed an interest in surgery versus 5% of fourth year female students (p < 0.006).


Lifestyle issues remain at the forefront of student concerns. Intellectual challenge, career opportunities, and technical skills are consistently recognized as strengths of surgery. Additionally, fourth year students identify role models, prestige, and financial rewards as positive attributes. Emphasizing positive aspects may facilitate attracting quality students to future careers in surgery.

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