Inspiring Medical Students to Pursue Surgical Careers: Outcomes From Our Cardiothoracic Surgery Research Program

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The past several years have witnessed a dramatic decline in the number of general surgery residents pursuing cardiothoracic surgery residency training. We believe that attracting individuals to pursue surgical careers should begin during the formative years of medical education. We implemented a program to introduce first-year medical students to cardiothoracic surgery and laboratory research.


In 2003, we began a program providing an introduction to cardiothoracic laboratory research and surgery for medical students. Students are competitively selected for our three-part 8-week summer program. First, students are paired with a cardiothoracic surgery attending for shadowing in clinic and the operating room. Second, students actively participate in large-animal operations in the laboratory. Finally, students complete a clinical research project under the direction of a laboratory resident and faculty mentor. These projects are the students' own. They are responsible for presenting their findings to the division of cardiac surgery at the end of the program.


Since 2003, 18 students have completed the program. Each one has completed a project, collectively resulting in 39 peer-reviewed manuscripts. One student has published 28 peer-reviewed manuscripts. Of 10 students eligible for residency, 8 have applied in general surgery or surgical subspecialty (3 general, 2 plastic, 2 cardiothoracic, and 1 neurosurgery).


Implementing a program to introduce medical students to clinical and laboratory surgery has been successful, as measured by academic productivity. Eighty percent of eligible students entered a surgical field. Programs like these serve to stimulate interest in our specialty.

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