Study: Role models influence specialty choice

Residency Program Insider, April 27, 2018

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A study recently published in the Journal of Graduate Medical Education found that medical students' personal exposure to role models in medical school was a significant predictor of their choice of specialty for residency.

Researchers conducted a five-year national longitudinal study of medical students from 24 U.S. allopathic medical schools. In 2011, third-year medical students were first asked to complete a survey and then a follow-up survey six to nine months later when they had become fourth-year students. In the follow-up survey, students were asked to identify the clinical specialty of the physician they admired the most. Students were also asked to rank the level of potential influence seven factors might have one their specialty choice, such as their financial debt at graduation, desire for a manageable lifestyle, and desire to follow in the footsteps of the physicians they admired.

Researchers then obtained data from the AMA Physician Master File in May 2016 and found that the students’ exposure to role models significantly predicted their training in those role models’ specialties after graduation. Students reporting exposure to an admired generalist physician was found to have the strongest odds of being in generalist residency training. Exposure to role models in surgery, radiology, ophthalmology, anesthesiology, and dermatology was also predicted students’ specialty choices.

Source: Journal of Graduate Medical Education

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