Medical students pursuing surgical fields have no greater innate motor dexterity than those pursuing nonsurgical fields

J Surg Educ. 2012 May-Jun;69(3):360-3. doi: 10.1016/j.jsurg.2011.11.005.


Introduction: Medical students pursue different career paths based on a variety of factors. We sought to examine the impact of innate manual dexterity, both perceived and objective, on the career interests of medical students.

Methods: Third-year medical students from the University of California, Irvine were recruited for this study. Subjects completed a pretest questionnaire followed by assessment of gross and fine motor dexterity using the Purdue Pegboard test. A total of 6 independent trials were performed, 3 for each hand. The scores were recorded as an integer value between 0 and 25. A statistical analysis was performed using student t tests, the Fischer exact test, or the χ(2) test, where appropriate.

Results: A total of 100 students completed the questionnaire while 58 completed the dexterity testing. Students interested in a surgical field (SF) were similar in handedness, gender, video game exposure, and learning style as those interested in a nonsurgical field (NSF). In the SF group, "personal skill set" was reported as the most common factor influencing career selection, and "interest in disease process/patient population" was reported most commonly by NSF students (p = 0.015). Although a perceived innate manual dexterity was higher among SF students compared with NSF students (p = 0.032), no significant objective differences were found in right hand, left hand, or combined dexterity scores.

Conclusions: Perceived "personal skill set" may influence strongly a medical student's career choice. Despite greater perceived manual dexterity, students interested in an SF do not have greater objective innate manual dexterity than those interested in an NSF.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Career Choice*
  • Clinical Clerkship / statistics & numerical data
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Decision Making
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality
  • General Surgery / education*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medicine / statistics & numerical data
  • Medicine / trends
  • Motor Skills / physiology*
  • Personality Inventory*
  • Students, Medical / statistics & numerical data
  • Surveys and Questionnaires