Background: The objective of the survey was to examine factors affecting career choice by medical students.
Methods: A questionnaire was distributed to the 245 fourth-year students at the University of Toronto, sampling qualities of importance in specialties, the importance of role models, attitudes toward surgery, and specialty match results.
Results: There was a 69% return rate. Males were more likely to choose a surgical career than were females (27% versus 10%, respectively; P = 0.01). Males were more likely to identify technical challenge, earning potential, and prestige (P < 0.01) whereas females were more likely to identify residency conditions, part-time work, and parental leave availability as important qualities in a specialty (P < 0.01). Females were less likely to take surgical electives (P < 0.001) and more likely to identify a lack of role models (P < 0.003). Students agreed that surgeons have rewarding careers (79%) and earn more (64%); however, they do not agree that surgeons enjoy spending time with patients (10%) or have rewarding family lives (5%).
Conclusions: Fewer females than males were found to consider or choose a surgical career, possibly due to differences in qualities of importance in specialties, availability of role models, and exposure through electives.