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Medical Student Perspectives on Choosing a Career in Vascular Surgery

Published:December 18, 2021DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.avsg.2021.11.015

      Background

      Vascular surgery is facing an impending workforce shortage as the population ages and the demand for vascular surgical services increases. The integrated vascular surgery residency (0+5) paradigm is well-established and provides a mechanism to increase the number of board-certified vascular surgeons. Recruitment of medical students to these programs has proven challenging with unfilled positions in each of the past 2 years. The aim of this study is to explore factors that influence medical students’ interest in vascular surgery and their decision to ultimately pursue a career in the field.

      Methods

      Medical students listed on the Society for Vascular Surgery “Find a VSIG (Vascular Surgery Interest Group)” webpage were contacted via email to participate in the study. A snowball sampling technique was employed to recruit additional participants, including recent medical school graduates who had matched into a 0+5 program. Fifteen students participated in 5 focus groups. Directed content analysis was employed to qualitatively analyze focus group transcripts.

      Results

      Five domains were identified as influencing students’ decision to pursue vascular surgery. Experiential learning facilitated early exploration of the field. The intellectuality of the specialty was a feature that attracted students to vascular surgery. In addition, the professional identify of vascular surgeons as comprehensive care providers was appealing. Students identified with their mentors’ relationships as observed during clinical encounters. Long-term mentorship was important in sustaining students’ interest.

      Conclusion

      Medical students pursue a career in vascular surgery based on early exposure to the specialty, experiential learning through hands-on VSIG events, clinical experiences, and longitudinal faculty mentorship. The unique aspects of the specialty, including professional identity and intellectuality, should be highlighted to both attract and maintain students’ interest in the field. These findings can be used by national vascular surgery leaders, practicing vascular surgeons, and faculty and student leadership of VSIGs to optimize recruitment programs and increase the vascular surgery workforce.
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