Peer Nominations as Related to Academic Attainment, Empathy, Personality, and Specialty Interest


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Abstract

PurposeTo test the hypotheses that peer nomination is associated with measures of (1) academic performance, (2) empathy, (3) personality, and (4) specialty interest.MethodIn 2007–2008, 255 third-year medical students at Jefferson Medical College were asked to nominate classmates they considered the best in six areas of clinical and humanistic excellence. The authors compared students who received nominations with those who did not, analyzing differences in academic performance, personality factors (empathy as measured by the Jefferson Scale of Empathy and personality qualities as measured by the Zuckerman–Kuhlman Personality Questionnaire), and specialty interests.ResultsA comparison of the 155 students who received at least one peer nomination with the 100 students who received none found no significant difference in scores on objective examinations; nominated students, however, were rated significantly higher in clinical competence by faculty in six core third-year clerkships. Nominated students were also significantly more empathic and “active.” In addition, a larger proportion of nominated students choose “people-oriented” (rather than “technology- or procedure-oriented”) specialties.ConclusionsThese results confirmed the hypotheses that peer nomination can predict clinical competence, empathy and other positive personal qualities, and interest in people-oriented specialties. Thus, in the assessment of medical students, peer nomination holds promise as a valid indicator of positive dimensions of professionalism.

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