Purpose: To determine whether the preferences of female medical students are sufficient to explain the recent trend of U.S. medical students choosing specialties with controllable lifestyles.
Method: Specialty choice for graduating U.S. medical students by sex was determined from the responses to the Association of American Medical Colleges' 1996-2003 Medical School Graduation Questionnaires. Using earlier research, specialties were classified as having an uncontrollable or controllable lifestyle. Log-linear models were constructed to assess the strength of association among trends in specialty choice, controllable lifestyle, and sex.
Results: The percentage of women choosing specialties with controllable lifestyles increased from 18% in 1996 to 36% in 2003. For men, the percentage grew from 28% to 45%. The change in preference for controllable lifestyle specialties accounted for a large proportion of the variability in specialty choices for both women and men from 1996-2003 (chi2 for changes common to women and men = 920, 1 df, p < .0001). The difference between women and men in the trend toward controllable lifestyle specialties was small relative to the common changes (chi2 for differences = 12, 1 df, p = .0005).
Conclusion: Controllable lifestyle was strongly associated with the recent trends in specialty choice for both women and men and could not be explained solely by the specialty preferences of women.