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Am J Med. 1994 Nov;97(5):410-7.

Why students choose a primary care or nonprimary care career. The Specialty Choice Study Group.

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Curriculum Office, Medical College of Georgia School of Medicine, Augusta.



To analyze the factors influencing students to choose residency training in primary care (internal medicine, family medicine, and pediatrics) or nonprimary care specialties and study the combined effect of reported responses on their choice.


A 12-item questionnaire using a 7-point Likert scale was mailed to the 1,164 graduating seniors from 9 medical schools in 1991. Responses ranged from 1, very negative influence, to 7, very positive influence. Four indicated no influence. The overall response rate was 69%. Univariate analysis of factors associated with specialty choice was done with the Mantel-Haenzsel chi-square test. Odds ratios were calculated for each significant variable without controlling for other variables. Factors found to have univariate significance were then tested for combined significance with logistic regression analysis. The regression was performed on a randomly chosen training sample, and validated on a test sample.


Forty-five percent of respondents chose an internship and planned residency training in a primary care specialty. Factors that remained positively associated with choosing a primary care specialty when controlling for other factors were desire to provide comprehensive care, to keep options open, and to undertake ambulatory care. Desire for monetary reward was negatively associated with choice of a primary care specialty.


Positive educational experiences in the ambulatory setting should be enhanced, and disparity in remuneration among disciplines reduced.

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