Increased exposure improves recruitment: early results of a program designed to attract medical students into surgical careers

Ann Thorac Surg. 2014 Jun;97(6):2111-4; discussion 2114. doi: 10.1016/j.athoracsur.2014.02.029. Epub 2014 Apr 12.


Background: In recent years, general surgery and surgical subspecialty residency interests have remained somewhat static among medical students, casting some doubt on recruitment of the best students. A summer research program was designed to introduce interested medical students to surgical careers.

Methods: In 2003, the division of cardiac surgery instituted an 8-week structured summer research experience for second-year medical students. Three students were competitively chosen from a pool of 20 to 30 interested applicants every year. They were taught basic operative suturing and knot-tying techniques. Students participated in large animal research projects, witnessed clinical operations, and developed individual clinical projects with an attending cardiac surgeon. The summer experience culminated with oral presentations to the cardiac surgery division, with many students producing manuscripts for publication or presentation at national meetings.

Results: From 2003 to 2012, 30 students participated in the program. Of 23 participants who had applied for residency, 12 (52.2%) matched into general surgery or a surgical subspecialty, including 3 into plastic surgery, 2 into cardiothoracic surgery, 1 into orthopedic surgery, and 1 into neurosurgery. These students produced 64 publications and presented at 51 national and regional meetings.

Conclusions: These results suggest that an 8-week, structured program introducing students to cardiothoracic surgery can successfully attract students into surgical careers. The percentage (52%) of these students entering a surgical career compares favorably with national residency match results (16%) and graduating Johns Hopkins medical students (22%). Increased effort for early exposure to surgery may be a key factor in generating and securing surgical interest among medical students.

MeSH terms

  • Career Choice*
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency*
  • Students, Medical*
  • Thoracic Surgery / education*