The Impetus Behind Choosing a Medical Specialty

Aleksandra Dukhan, Carly Chamberlain, Richard Terry


Selecting a specialty is an important step in a medical student’s education, and many believe this decision is more difficult than the decision to attend medical school. With so many changes occurring in the medical system, including the increasing reliance on electronic medical records, the merger of the AOA and ACGME residency programs, and the increasing number of women entering the field, we conducted a study to determine the impetus today behind how individuals choose their medical specialty. To determine the most significant factor influencing an individual’s choice of specialty, we created a seven-question survey that was made available to students, residents, fellows, and attendings at one medical school and one community teaching hospital system. The results of the study showed that personal experience was the most influential reason amongst those surveyed for selecting a residency specialty (p < 0.05). One limitation of the study was that the majority of responders were students who had not yet matched into a residency. A future study could explore if, upon matching in residency, the students maintained their desire for the same specialty. Another limitation of the study was that we only surveyed individuals within one hospital system and therefore had a limited number of physicians, residents, fellows, and attendings. More hospitals should be contacted to obtain results from a greater number of practicing physicians.

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