Academic or community practice? What is driving decision-making and career choices

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Background:Identifying factors that impact progression of surgery trainees into academic versus non-academic practices may permit tailoring residency experiences to promote academic careers in institutions charged with the training of future surgeon scientists. The aim of this study was to identify factors associated with progression of surgery trainees into academic versus non-academic practice.Methods:A survey was distributed to 135 surgeons graduating from the University of Virginia residency program from 1964–2016, a single academic institution. Questions addressed practice type, research productivity, work/life balance, mentorship, and overall sentiment toward research and academic surgery. A 5-point Likert scale measured career satisfaction and influence of factors in practice setting choice.Results:Of the 135 surveys that were electronically distributed, 69 participants responded (response rate: 51%). Of the 54 with known current practice types, 34 (63%) were academic and 20 (37%) non-academic. Academic surgeons reported more publications by the conclusion of surgery training (56% vs 25% with >10 publications, P = .02). More academic surgeons reported >$100,000 in student debt at graduation (44% vs 25%, P < .05). Factors encouraging an academic career were similar for both types of surgeons, including involvement in education of trainees and access to mentorship. Both groups were discouraged from an academic practice by requirements of grant-writing and funding responsibilities. Surgeons in academic practice were more likely to recommend surgery as a career to a current medical student (100% vs 70%, P = .001).Conclusion:This knowledge may help to tailor training experiences to promote academic careers. By supporting funding mechanisms and grant-writing programs, while encouraging mentorship and productive research experiences, current surgical trainees may be more enthusiastic about a career in academic practice.

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