World Journal of Surgery

, Volume 43, Issue 12, pp 2986–2993 | Cite as

Factors Influencing a Medical Student’s Decision to Pursue Surgery as a Career

  • Jarod SheltonEmail author
  • Michael Obregon
  • Jessica Luo
  • Oren Feldman-Schultz
  • Martin MacDowell
Original Scientific Report



Recent match trends from the National Resident Matching Program suggest that the number of allopathic medical students (MD) pursuing general surgery is declining. This decline may have profound consequences given the surgeon shortage predicted by the Association of American Medical Colleges. Early exposure to surgery opportunities may increase a student’s desire to pursue the specialty as a career. The aim of this study was to evaluate the effect surgical activities have on promoting student interest in surgery.


Medical students (years 1–3) at the University of Illinois at Rockford completed a two-component activity: a questionnaire and laparoscopic box activity. Differences in lifestyle factors, psychomotor aptitude, and future career interests were compared.


A total of 64 medical students completed the activity. 45.3% of students reported that the activity positively influenced their decision to pursue a career in surgery. Rating of the importance of living in a rural versus urban community was an important lifestyle factor (p = 0.01) for students without rather than with an interest in surgery, 3.95 and 3.19, respectively. No differences were observed in other lifestyle factors.


Early exposure to surgical activities may foster interest in students who lacked previous intention to pursue the specialty.



The authors thank all students who agreed to participate in this study. Special thanks to Drs. Mark Zarnke and Michael McCarthy for reviewing the functionality of the laparoscopic box trainer.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflicts of interest

Nothing to disclose.

Supplementary material

268_2019_5167_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (239 kb)
41-item questionnaire available to all UI-Rockford students from January 2019 to April 2019. The survey included demographic, surgical exposure, prior laparoscopic instrument use, thoughts of pursuing surgery as a career, psychomotor aptitude, future specialty and lifestyle expectation questions. Demographic, future specialty, and lifestyle expectation questions were based on the 2018 Association of American Medical Colleges’ Medical School Graduation Questionnaire [11]. All other questions were developed by the investigators, and the survey was reviewed by two senior surgeons related to content and question format (PDF 239 kb)


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Copyright information

© Société Internationale de Chirurgie 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Illinois College of Medicine at RockfordRockfordUSA
  2. 2.Department Family and Community Medicine and National Center for Rural Health ProfessionsUniversity of Illinois College of Medicine at RockfordRockfordUSA

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