An analysis of medical students' residency and specialty choices

Mary P. Taggart, Steven A. Wartman, Albert F. Wessen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


The contemporary geographic maldistribution of physicians and shortages in some specialty areas is a persistent problem facing United States federal and state wide health planners. This paper attempts to illustrate some of the formal and informal processes of the selection of specialties and recidency programs based on a survey of senior students of 37 selected American medical schools at the time of the National Residency Matching Program in 1982. Results of a factor analysis on influences on specialty choice produced two major clusters of medical students; those predominantly influenced in specialty choice by the faculty and other senior physicians (sponsorship), and those predominantly influenced by the social dimension of the physicians' role (social responsibility). These medical specialty choice orientations were also systematically related to either choice of specialty vs primary care medicine, to a life-style or status related choice of residency program, and to students' perceptions regarding a program's evaluation of a candidate. The results of the survey suggested that students who chose primary care were more apt to be influenced by sources outside of the medical school. These findings raise questions regarding the efficacy of medical school curriculum in motivating career choices in primary care. This is particularly important in view of the stated need to increase the proportion of medical school graduates choosing primary care careers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1063-1068
Number of pages6
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Issue number9
StatePublished - 1987
Externally publishedYes


  • medical education
  • postgraduate training
  • residency choice
  • specialty choice

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Social Psychology
  • Development
  • Health(social science)


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