Preclinical students: Who are surgeons?

Rosemary A. Kozar, Kimberly D. Anderson, Susan L. Escobar-Chaves, Melanie A. Thiel, Susan I. Brundage

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


Background The purpose of the present study was to determine how preclinical medical students formulate their career choice and to determine the origin of negative perceptions regarding surgery as a career. Materials and methods A qualitative study was performed with second-year medical students voluntarily participating in focus group study. Students with and without an interest in surgery attended. Topics discussed included factors influencing career choice, priorities, perceptions, exposure, and interactions with surgeons. Three investigators conducted independent content analysis. Results Career choices for students interested in surgery originated primarily from premedical school experiences/interactions with surgeons. In contrast, students not interested in surgery made career choices during medical school and choices were shaped primarily by second-year preceptors. The main priority for students interested in surgery was personal happiness that was perceived as being significantly dependent upon career satisfaction. Students not interested in surgery tended to separate happiness derived from career versus family. Negative perceptions toward surgery were developed and reinforced by media, preceptors, and classmates. All students had minimal exposure to surgeons during preclinical years and generally agreed that increased involvement with surgeons would be beneficial, particularly through preclinical preceptorships. Conclusions Career choices of preclinical students interested in surgery were made prior to entering medical school, suggesting that outreach programs to high schools and colleges may beneficial. Negative perceptions about surgery develop through a variety of sources, including fellow classmates, preceptors, and the media. Surgeons need to take responsibility for these perceptions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)113-116
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of Surgical Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 15 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • career choice
  • focus groups
  • medical students
  • surgery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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