, Volume 76, Issue 1, pp 117-126

The role of curriculum in influencing students to select generalist training: A 21-year longitudinal study

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Abstract

To determine if specific curricula or backgrounds influence selection of generalist careers, the curricular choices of graduates of Mount Sinai School of Medicine between 1970 and 1990 were reviewed based on admission category. Students were divided into three groups: Group 1, those who started their first year of training at the School of Medicine; Group 2, those accepted with advanced standing into their third year of training from the Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education, a five-year program developed to select and produce students likely to enter primary care fields; and Group 3, those accepted with advanced standing into the third year who spent the first two years at a foreign medical school. All three groups took the identical last two years of clinical training at the School of Medicine. There were no significant differences with respect to initial choice of generalist training programs among all three groups, with 46% of the total cohort selecting generalist training. Of those students who chose generalist programs, 58% in Group 1,51% in Group 2, and 41% in Group 3 remained in these fields rather than progressing to fellowship training. This difference was significant only with respect to Group 3. However, when an analysis was performed among those students providing only primary care as compared to only specialty care, there were no significant differences. Analysis by gender revealed women to be more likely to select generalist fields and remain in these fields without taking specialty training (P<.0001). Differentiating characteristics with respect to choosing generalist fields were not related to either Part I or Part II scores on National Board Examinations or selection to AOA. However, with respect to those specific specialties considered quite competitive (general surgery, obstetrics and gynecology, and ophthalmology), total test scores on Part I and Part II were significantly higher than those of all other students. The analysis indicated that, despite the diverse characteristics of students entering the third year at the School of Medicine, no one group produced a statistically greater proportion of generalists positions than any other, and academic performance while in medical school did not have a significant influence on whether a student entered a generalist field.