Increasing Medical Student Interest in Nephrology

Am J Nephrol. 2019;50(1):4-10. doi: 10.1159/000501058. Epub 2019 Jun 11.


Background: Interest in nephrology careers is declining, possibly due to perceptions of the field and/or training aspects. Understanding practices of medical schools successfully instilling nephrology interest could inform efforts to attract leading candidates to the specialty.

Methods: The American Society of Nephrology Workforce Committee's Best Practices Project was one of several initiatives to increase nephrology career interest. Board-certified nephrologists graduating medical school between 2002 and 2009 were identified in the American Medical Association Masterfile and their medical schools ranked by production. Renal educators from the top 10 producing institutions participated in directed focus groups inquiring about key factors in creating nephrology career interest, including aspects of their renal courses, clinical rotations, research activities, and faculty interactions. Thematic content analysis of the transcripts (with inductive reasoning implementing grounded theory) was performed to identify factors contributing to their programs' success.

Results: The 10 schools identified were geographically representative, with similar proportions of graduates choosing internal medicine (mean 26%) as the national graduating class (26% in the 2017 residency Match). Eighteen educators from 9 of these 10 institutions participated. Four major themes were identified contributing to these schools' success: (1) nephrology faculty interaction with medical students; (2) clinical exposure to nephrology and clinical relevance of renal pathophysiology materials; (3) use of novel educational modalities; and (4) exposure, in particular early exposure, to the breadth of nephrology practice.

Conclusion: Early and consistent exposure to a range of clinical nephrology experiences and nephrology faculty contact with medical students are important to help generate interest in the specialty.

Keywords: Medical education; Medical school; Nephrology workforce; Specialty choice.

MeSH terms

  • Career Choice*
  • Curriculum
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate / methods*
  • Faculty
  • Focus Groups
  • Humans
  • Nephrology / education*
  • Schools, Medical
  • Students, Medical / psychology*
  • United States