Pathology is an unpopular residency choice for medical students worldwide. In some countries, this has contributed to a crisis in pathologist human resources that has affected the quality of clinical laboratories. Several previous studies have used information from junior medical students and from residents to suggest ways of improving pathology recruitment. There are, however, no published studies of pathology residency choice that focus on the senior medical students who must be recruited. This study uses focus groups of senior medical students to explore both general and pathology-specific influences on residency choice. Several general influences are identified, including students' expectations for their future clinical practices, their own clinical rotation experiences, influences from other people including mentors, and their choice to reject certain fields. Several specific antipathology influences are also revealed, including negative stereotypes about pathologists, a perceived incompatibility of personality between most medical students (extroverted) and pathologists (introverted), and perceptions of pathologists as being in some ways nonmedical. The most important antipathology influence was that, from the students' perspective, pathology was utterly invisible in clinical practice. Most students did not consider and then reject a pathology residency: instead, pathology was completely ignored. Given the importance of clerkship electives in influencing medical student career choice, promoting clerkship experiences in pathology may improve recruitment. However, departments of pathology must first make pathology visible to students and teach them how pathologists contribute to clinical care.
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