World Journal of Surgery

, Volume 39, Issue 12, pp 2908–2918 | Cite as

Are Medical Students Who Want to Become Surgeons Different? An International Cross-Sectional Study

  • Dominik Baschera
  • Erin O’Donnell Taylor
  • Taolo Masilonyane-Jones
  • Patrick Isenegger
  • René Zellweger
Original Scientific Report



Surgery is one of the most demanding and competitive medical specialities. This study aims to identify the characteristics that medical students who aspire to surgical specialisation possess.

Materials and methods

In February 2010, an online survey comprised 36 questions was produced with the aid of the open source survey tool Limesurvey (Version 1.85 RC3). Deans’ offices and student organisations in eight countries were contacted via e-mail with a link to the online survey for them to disseminate amongst the student population. Respondents were grouped into “Surgically inclined” and “non-surgically inclined”. To compare the characteristics of these two groups, the Fisher Exact test was used for categorical data and non-parametric tests were used for continuous data.


Between February and June 2010, we received 2907 responses; the majority from Australia, Austria, Germany, Switzerland and the UK. Of these, 2351 indicated what discipline they would like to pursue after graduation, with 383 (16.3 %) favouring surgery. The percentages of students interested in Surgery were similar across all participating countries. Those favouring Surgery were 1.5 times more likely to be male (*p = 0.01); however, Austria and Germany had significantly higher rates of female students interested in Surgery than all other countries surveyed. Students favouring Surgery were 20 % more likely to be single. Students favouring surgery were more likely to nominate “social prestige” and “remuneration” as their key motivation to become a doctor and were also prepared to work longer hours than respondents that were not surgically inclined.


In this study, Medical students who aspire toward surgical careers were more likely to be male, less lifestyle orientated, and seeking social prestige and financial remuneration compared to other medical students.


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Copyright information

© Société Internationale de Chirurgie 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dominik Baschera
    • 1
    • 2
  • Erin O’Donnell Taylor
    • 3
  • Taolo Masilonyane-Jones
    • 2
  • Patrick Isenegger
    • 4
  • René Zellweger
    • 2
  1. 1.NeurosurgeryKantonsspital WinterthurWinterthurSwitzerland
  2. 2.Department of Orthopaedics and Trauma SurgeryRoyal Perth HospitalPerthAustralia
  3. 3.Department of PsychiatryRoyal Perth HospitalPerthAustralia
  4. 4.Department of MedicineLucerne Cantonal HospitalLucerne 16Switzerland

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