The impact of role models on medical students

J Gen Intern Med. 1997 Jan;12(1):53-6. doi: 10.1046/j.1525-1497.1997.12109.x.


Objective: To explore the relationship between exposure to clinical role models during medical school and the students' choice of clinical field for residency training, and to estimate the strength of this association.

Design: Cross-section study.

Setting: McGill University School of Medicine, Montreal, Canada.

Participants: Of the 146 graduating medical students in the class of 1995, 136 participated.

Measurements and main results: Clinical field chosen by students for residency training and the students' assessment of their exposure to and interaction with physician role models were the main measurements. Ninety percent of graduating students had identified a role model or models during medical school. Personality, clinical skills and competence, and teaching ability were most important in the selection of a role model, while research achievements and academic position were least important. Odds ratios between interacting with "sufficient" role models in a given clinical field and choosing that same clinical field for residency were 12.8 for pediatrics, 5.1 for family medicine, 4.7 for internal medicine, and 3.6 for surgery. Most students (63%) received career counseling and advice from their role models.

Conclusions: Exposure to role models in a particular clinical field is strongly associated with medical students' choice of clinical field for residency training. Knowing which characteristics students look for in their role models should help identify the physicians who may be most influential in medical students' career choice.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Career Choice*
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Education, Medical / methods
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency*
  • Male
  • Mentors*
  • Odds Ratio
  • Physician's Role*
  • Students, Medical / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires