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Why Do Medical Students Choose Orthopaedics as a Career?
Amanda L. Johnson, MD1; Jyoti Sharma, MD1; Vernon M. Chinchilli, PhD2; Sanford E. Emery, MD, MBA3; C. McCollister Evarts, MD4; Mark W. Floyd, MD3; Christopher C. Kaeding, MD5; William F. Lavelle, MD6; J. Lawrence Marsh, MD7; Vincent D. Pellegrini, Jr., MD8; Ann E. Van Heest, MD9; Kevin P. Black, MD1
1 Department of Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation, Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, P.O. Box 850, M.C. H089, Hershey, PA 17033. E-mail address for A.L. Johnson: AmandaLjohnson32@gmail.com. E-mail address for J. Sharma: jsharma@hmc.psu.edu. E-mail address for K.P. Black: kblack@hmc.psu.edu
2 Department of Public Health Sciences, A210, Penn State Hershey College of Medicine, 600 Centerview Drive, Suite 2200, Hershey, PA 17033. E-mail address: vchinchi@psu.edu
3 Department of Orthopaedics, West Virginia University, 1 Medical Center Drive, Box 9196, Morgantown, WV 26506. E-mail address for S.E. Emery: semery@hsc.wvu.edu. E-mail address for M.W. Floyd: mfloyd@hsc.wvu.edu
4 University of Maryland Orthopaedics, One Texas Station Court, Suite 300, Timonium, MD 21093. E-mail address: cmevarts@umoa.umm.edu
5 OSU Sports Medicine, The Ohio State University, 2050 Kenny Road, Columbus, Ohio 43221. E-mail address: kaeding.1@osu.edu
6 SUNY Upstate Medical University, 6620 Fly Road, East Syracuse, NY 13057. E-mail address: lavellew@upstate.edu
7 Department of Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation, University of Iowa, 200 Hawkins Drive, 01071 JPP, Iowa City, IA 52242. E-mail address: j-marsh@uiowa.edu
8 Department of Orthopaedics, University of Maryland School of Medicine, 22 South Greene Street, Suite S 11 B, Baltimore, MD 21201. E-mail address: vpellegrini@umoa.umm.edu
9 Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, University of Minnesota, 2512 South 7th Street, Suite 200, Minneapolis, MN 55454. E-mail address: vanhe003@umn.edu
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Disclosure: None of the authors received payments or services, either directly or indirectly (i.e., via his or her institution), from a third party in support of any aspect of this work. One or more of the authors, or his or her institution, has had a financial relationship, in the thirty-six months prior to submission of this work, with an entity in the biomedical arena that could be perceived to influence or have the potential to influence what is written in this work. Also, one or more of the authors has had another relationship, or has engaged in another activity, that could be perceived to influence or have the potential to influence what is written in this work. The complete Disclosures of Potential Conflicts of Interest submitted by authors are always provided with the online version of the article.

Copyright © 2012 by The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, Inc.
J Bone Joint Surg Am, 2012 Jun 06;94(11):e78 1-9. doi: 10.2106/JBJS.K.00826
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The primary influence on medical students’ career choice is their third-year clerkship. However, orthopaedics is not a required rotation in the curriculum of most medical schools. Our goals were to identify factors that motivate students to choose an orthopaedic career and to compare these with the factors that influence students to choose nonorthopaedic disciplines.


Fourth-year medical students and orthopaedic residents at the postgraduate year (PGY)-1 level at eight orthopaedic training programs in the United States were surveyed to determine the reasons that they chose orthopaedics instead of other medical or surgical fields.


Of the 622 individuals who responded to our survey, 125 were entering orthopaedics and 497 were not. Although career choice in both groups was most heavily influenced by third and fourth-year clinical rotations and faculty contacts, orthopaedics-bound respondents were more likely than non-orthopaedics-bound respondents to be strongly influenced by experiences and people prior to medical school. Orthopaedics-bound respondents were less likely to report a faculty member as the most important person influencing career choice. Fifty-one percent (sixty-three) of 124 students who selected orthopaedics had already decided to pursue this field prior to their third-year rotation. Patient care was chosen by 71% (347) of 490 non-orthopaedics-bound respondents and 75% (ninety-four) of 125 orthopaedics-bound respondents as the most important factor for pursuing a particular field. Income was not selected as the deciding factor by respondents in either group.


Although faculty contacts and third-year clinical rotations played an important role in student selection of specialty training, they were less influential for those choosing an orthopaedic career than for those choosing other disciplines. Many students choosing orthopaedics made this decision prior to medical school. We believe that increased exposure to positive clinical role models and experiences during medical school would enhance medical students’ options for choosing orthopaedic surgery as a career. Anticipated income did not play a deciding role in career selection.

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    Accreditation Statement
    These activities have been planned and implemented in accordance with the Essential Areas and policies of the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) through the joint sponsorship of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, Inc. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons is accredited by the ACCME to provide continuing medical education for physicians.
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