Objective: To determine the reasons trainees choose rheumatology as a subspecialty and to review the literature on career choices among physicians, particularly regarding the choice of subspecialty.
Methods: A questionnaire was designed to identify and analyze factors that influence rheumatology fellows to join the field of rheumatology. The questionnaire was administered online and answers were collated through the American College of Rheumatology Training and Workforce Committee, Subcommittee on Medical Student and Resident Recruitment. We reviewed the medical literature, using Medline and PubMed to find references to career choice among medical trainees.
Results: The majority of rheumatology fellows had their initial exposure to rheumatology as second-year and third-year medical students, and >75% solidified their decision during internship and residency. Clinical rotations in rheumatology and exposure to role models and mentors were the most influential factors. Approximately 40% of rheumatology fellows cite their intellectual interest in the field as the most important contributor to their decision.
Conclusion: Career decision-making occurs throughout medical training. Exposure to clinical experiences and mentors are particularly influential and may have an impact during medical school, as well as during internal medicine residency training. These findings suggest that there are a variety of opportunities throughout medical training to influence career decision-making and improve recruitment into rheumatology. Additional financial resources that support recruitment efforts may be required, and followup studies assessing the effects of these efforts should be done.