Many US medical schools have added a scholarly or research requirement as a potential intervention to increase the number of medical students choosing to become academic physicians and physician scientists. We designed a retrospective qualitative survey study to evaluate the impact of medical school research at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) on career choices. A survey tool was developed consisting of 74 possible questions with built-in skip patterns to customize the survey to each participant. The survey was administered using the web-based program Qualtrics to UAB School of Medicine alumni graduating between 2000 and 2014. Alumni were contacted 3 times at 2-week intervals during the year 2015, resulting in 168 completed surveys (11.5% response rate). MD/PhD graduates were excluded from the study. Most respondents completed elective research, typically for reasons relating to career advancement. 24 per cent said medical school research increased their desire for research involvement in the future, a response that positively correlated with mentorship level and publication success. Although completion of medical school research was positively correlated with current research involvement, the strongest predictor for a physician scientist career was pre-existing passion for research (p=0.008). In contrast, students motivated primarily by curricular requirement were less likely to pursue additional research opportunities. Positive medical school research experiences were associated with increased postgraduate research in our study. However, we also identified a strong relationship between current research activity and passion for research, which may predate medical school.