Understanding and improving medical student specialty choice: a synthesis of the literature using decision theory as a referent

Teach Learn Med. 2001 Spring;13(2):117-29. doi: 10.1207/S15328015TLM1302_7.


Background: As emphasis in medicine has shifted to increasing the number of physicians who choose primary care specialties, many studies of medical specialty choice have been conducted. Although researchers have approached the topic in a number of ways, most approaches have tended to focus on narrow elements of the choice, such as the effect of programs or curricula. A more comprehensive approach is possible by fitting the process to a preexisting broad theoretical framework.

Summary: This synthesis of the literature examines specialty choice from the perspective of decision theory--with its aims of understanding how decisions are made, providing information about the quality of decisions, and improving the decision-making process.

Conclusion: This approach has the potential to not only help deconstruct the process of decision making regarding specialty choice but also uncover information about the best ways to help medical students learn to make wise decisions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Career Choice*
  • Decision Theory*
  • Education, Medical*
  • Female
  • Health Workforce
  • Humans
  • Likelihood Functions
  • Male
  • Personality
  • Sex Factors
  • Specialization*
  • Students, Medical / psychology*
  • United States