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Acad Med. 2015 May;90(5):629-33. doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000000615.

Is a career in medicine the right choice? The impact of a physician shadowing program on undergraduate premedical students.

Author information

J.Y. Wang is a senior medical student, Stanford School of Medicine, Stanford, California. H. Lin is a senior medical student, Stanford School of Medicine, Stanford, California. P.Y. Lewis is an undergraduate premedical adviser, Stanford University Office of Undergraduate Advising and Research, Stanford, California. D.M. Fetterman is professor of business, University of Charleston, Charleston, West Virginia, and professor of anthropology, San Jose State University, California, and president, Fetterman & Associates, San Jose, California. N. Gesundheit is professor of medicine and associate dean for student advising, Stanford School of Medicine, Stanford, California.



Undergraduate (i.e., baccalaureate) premedical students have limited exposure to clinical practice before applying to medical school-a shortcoming, given the personal and financial resources required to complete medical training.


The Stanford Immersion in Medicine Series (SIMS) is a program that streamlines the completion of regulatory requirements for premedical students and allows them to develop one-on-one mentor-mentee relationships with practicing physicians. The program, offered quarterly since 2007, is an elective available for Stanford University sophomores, juniors, and seniors. Participants apply to the program and, if accepted, receive patient rights and professionalism training. Students shadow the physician they are paired with at least four times and submit a reflective essay about their experience.SIMS program coordinators administered surveys before and after shadowing to assess changes in students' perceptions and understanding of medical careers.


The authors observed, in the 61 Stanford premedical students who participated in SIMS between March and June 2010 and completed both pre- and postprogram questionnaires, significant increases in familiarity with physician responsibilities and in understanding physician-patient interactions. The authors detected no significant changes in student commitment to pursuing medicine. Student perceptions of the value of shadowing-high both pre- and post shadowing-did not change.


Physician shadowing by premedical baccalaureate students appears to promote an understanding of physician roles and workplace challenges. Future studies should identify the ideal timing, format, and duration of shadowing to optimize the experience and allow students to make informed decisions about whether to pursue a medical career.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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