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Public Health. 2008 Apr;122(4):361-6. Epub 2007 Nov 5.

Development of an interest in a career in public health during medical school.

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  • 1Department of Public and Occupational Health, EMGO Institute, VU University Medical Center Amsterdam, Van der Boechorststraat 7, 1081 BT Amsterdam, The Netherlands.



In The Netherlands, approximately 12% of medical graduates spend their professional life in public health, but it is the authors' belief that few of them become interested in such a career during medical school. The aim of this study was to investigate students' development of interest in a career in a public health specialty during medical school.


A written questionnaire was completed by students of all years at a Dutch medical school in 2002 (n=1371) and 2003 (n=1293). Students indicated their interest in a career in 37 Dutch medical specialties. Three public health specialties were distinguished and compared with the least popular specialty, the most popular specialty and with the average interest over all specialties.


Interest in a career in occupational health and social insurance health was low throughout medical school. However, almost 15% of students indicated a high level of interest in youth health care in the first year of medical school, which is over twice as many as for the average specialty. This percentage decreased dramatically during medical school. At graduation, all three public health specialties had interest figures well below the average.


Students have little interest in careers in public health. However, given that approximately 12% of medical graduates spend their professional life in public health, the factors that influence career preferences should be investigated. Targeted measures may yield more primary career preference in this direction. Reasons for the loss of interest in youth health care need to be investigated.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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