Specialty Choices of Students Who Actually Have Choices: The Influence of Excellent Clinical Teachers

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PurposeTo determine the influence of the quality of attending physicians and residents on the specialty choices of excellent medical students, who actually have a broad choice of specialties.MethodIn 1993–94 and 1994–95, 169 third-year students at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine were randomly assigned to two one-month rotations on general medicine inpatient wards. At the end of each rotation, the students confidentially evaluated the attending physician and the supervising resident (different for each rotation) with whom they had worked. Data were collected for 62 attending physicians and 89 residents. The authors analyzed the influences of the “best” and “worst” clinical instructors (those rated in the top and the bottom 20% by all students with whom they had worked over the two years) on “excellent” medical students (the 52 students whose USMLE I scores were in the top 30% of their class).ResultsUsing regression approaches from the general linear model, the authors found that independent predictors of internal medicine residency choice for excellent medical students were exposure to highly rated internal medicine attendings (p = .02) and residents (p = .03). Nine of 29 (30%) of the excellent students who worked with a “best” medicine clinical instructor chose an internal medicine residency, while none of the 23 excellent medical students who did not work with a “best” medicine clinical instructor did so. The authors found no correlation in students' ratings of their pairs of attendings and residents, suggesting that rater bias did not explain the results.ConclusionBetter medical students who work with the best internal medicine attending physicians and residents in their internal medicine clerkship are more likely to choose an internal medicine residency.

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