U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs


Date of this Version


Document Type



The American Journal of Surgery 189 (2005) 742–746; doi:10.1016/j.amjsurg.2005.03.019


Background: This study descriptively analyzes characteristics of general surgery residency and practice and their influence on student interest in surgical careers.

Methods: Fourth-year medical students were invited to complete an Internet-based survey. A 5-point Likert scale described characteristics of general surgery residency and practice influencing medical student specialty selection. The same characteristics of nonsurgical careers were evaluated for students entering other specialties.

Results: A convenience sample of 408 students from 16 medical schools completed the survey. All respondents viewed lifestyles of surgical residents and attending surgeons as negative influences on specialty selection. Workload during surgical residency negatively influenced all respondents’ interest in a surgical career. Role model identification and perceived personality fit were important in selection of all specialties.

Conclusions: Medical students who choose surgical careers are not deterred by a negative perception of lifestyle and workload considerations. Mentoring and personality fit are central in medical student specialty selection.