Background: The objectives of this survey were to identify medical students' general knowledge of vascular surgery as a career choice on entrance to medical school, and how student perspectives change during their exposure to clinical disciplines. Furthermore, we sought to determine which factors may influence the choice of a particular career path, and to apply this knowledge to improve the recruitment process of medical students into the specialty of vascular surgery.
Methods: A one-time anonymous questionnaire consisting of 21 open and multiple-choice questions was distributed to first- (MS1), second- (MS2), and third-year (MS3) medical students at a large single-campus medical school. Responses were collected and subjected to analysis.
Results: Three hundred thirty-eight medical students responded to the survey (110 MS1, 126 MS2, and 102 MS3). Two hundred thirty-six MS1 and MS2 students had no clinical exposure to vascular surgery. Of 102 MS3 students having completed a general surgery rotation, 38 had exposure to vascular surgery. Of MS1 and MS2 students, 49% would consider vascular surgery. An additional 19% were willing to consider vascular surgery if the length of training was reduced. Twenty-six percent of the clinical students rotated on a vascular surgery service during their clinical general surgery rotation, of which 78% reported a positive experience. Only 26% (10 of 38) still considered vascular surgery as a career at the MS3 level. Thirty-four percent of students would consider vascular surgery if the training was reduced from 7 to 5 years. However, only 5% of MS1 and MS2 (11 of 236) and 9% of MS3 (9 of 102) students were aware of the 0 + 5 training program. As students advanced in medical school, lifestyle (31% MS1 vs. 63% MS3, P < 0.001) and length of training (19% MS1 and 2 vs. 34% MS3, P < 0.001) became a more critical factor in their career choice decision making.
Conclusions: Medical students have minimal knowledge of vascular surgery on entry to medical school; however, many are willing to consider vascular surgery as a career. Lack of exposure in the first 2 years of medical school and lifestyle considerations may be deterrents for students to choosing vascular surgery as a career. To improve the recruitment process, focused education and interaction with preclinical medical students are needed.
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