Background. Recent emphasis in medical education has been to encourage students to pursue primary care careers. This could have a negative impact on applications to surgical residencies. Methods. To determine what factors are most influential for a student to pursue a surgical career in spite of this environment, third- and fourth-year medical students were surveyed with a 40-item questionnaire. Results. The response rate was 37% (76/205). Those students considering a career in surgery were more likely than their counterparts to be motivated by role models (P < .006), career opportunities (P < .006), and academic opportunities (P < .013) in surgery. They were less likely than their counterparts to be discouraged from surgery on the basis of lifestyle (P < .001), time commitment (P < .001), call schedules (P < .001), or residency length (P < .028). No differences regarding financial rewards, research opportunities, or intellectual challenges were seen between the groups. Neither race nor sex had a significant role in the selection of surgery as a career. Conclusions. The data suggests that students are more likely to be influenced to pursue surgical careers by offering early exposure to positive role models and career and academic opportunities in surgery. Knowledge of these influences on student career choices should help surgical educators attract and maintain student interest in surgical careers.
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