Factors Motivating Medical Students in Selecting a Career Specialty: Relevance for a Robust Orthopaedic Pipeline

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons








career selection; diversity; education; medical student; orthopaedic surgery; residency training; specialty


© Copyright 2017 by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Introduction: Selection of a career specialty by medical students is a complex and individualized decision. Our goals were to understand the factors that influenced medical students in selecting their career specialty, identify the stage at which this decision was made, and understand the role of demographics, mentors, and curricula in this process. Methods: Medical students from 10 institutions participated in a web-based survey. Results were stratified by sex, race/ethnicity, and level of interest in orthopaedic surgery. Results: A total of 657 students responded to the survey. Specialty content (mean rating, 8.4/10) and quality of life/lifestyle/stress level (7.5/10) were the primary motivating factors in selecting a specialty. Interest in orthopaedic surgery was lower in women than in men (2.7 versus 3.9; P < 0.01) and was equivalent among race/ethnicity groups. Although 27% of students reported moderate or extensive medical school curriculum exposure to orthopaedics, this education did not sway them toward the specialty. Conclusions: Levels of interest in orthopaedics among medical students may be lower than generally assumed. Increasing the attractiveness of the specialty will require a multifaceted approach, including recognition of lifestyle factors, adjustments in the orthopaedic clerkship to make the specialty more appealing, mentorship by orthopaedic faculty, and conversion of high levels of interest in the specialty among minority medical students into successful residency applications. Level of Evidence: IV

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