Impact of master’s degree attainment upon academic career placement in neurosurgery

Adham M. Khalafallah, Adrian E. Jimenez, Rafael J. Tamargo, Timothy Witham, Judy Huang, Henry Brem, Debraj Mukherjee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE Previous authors have investigated many factors that predict an academic neurosurgical career over private practice, including attainment of a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) and number of publications. Research has yet to demonstrate whether a master’s degree predicts an academic neurosurgical career. This study quantifies the association between obtaining a Master of Science (MS), Master of Public Health (MPH), or Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree and pursuing a career in academic neurosurgery. METHODS Public data on neurosurgeons who had graduated from Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME)–accredited residency programs in the period from 1949 to 2019 were collected from residency and professional websites. Residency graduates with a PhD were excluded to isolate the effect of only having a master’s degree. A position was considered “academic” if it was affiliated with a hospital that had a neurosurgery residency program; other positions were considered nonacademic. Bivariate analyses were performed with Fisher’s exact test. Multivariate analysis was performed using a logistic regression model. RESULTS Within our database of neurosurgery residency alumni, there were 47 (4.1%) who held an MS degree, 31 (2.7%) who held an MPH, and 10 (0.9%) who held an MBA. In bivariate analyses, neurosurgeons with MS degrees were significantly more likely to pursue academic careers (OR 2.65, p = 0.0014, 95% CI 1.40–5.20), whereas neurosurgeons with an MPH (OR 1.41, p = 0.36, 95% CI 0.64–3.08) or an MBA (OR 1.00, p = 1.00, 95% CI 0.21–4.26) were not. In the multivariate analysis, an MS degree was independently associated with an academic career (OR 2.48, p = 0.0079, 95% CI 1.28–4.93). Moreover, postresidency h indices of 1 (OR 1.44, p = 0.048, 95% CI 1.00–2.07), 2–3 (OR 2.76, p = 2.01 × 10−8, 95% CI 1.94–3.94), and ≥ 4 (OR 4.88, p < 2.00 × 10−16, 95% CI 3.43–6.99) were all significantly associated with increased odds of pursuing an academic career. Notably, having between 1 and 11 months of protected research time was significantly associated with decreased odds of pursuing academic neurosurgery (OR 0.46, p = 0.049, 95% CI 0.21–0.98). CONCLUSIONS Neurosurgery residency graduates with MS degrees are more likely to pursue academic neurosurgical careers relative to their non-MS counterparts. Such findings may be used to help predict residency graduates’ future potential in academic neurosurgery.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)295-303
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of neurosurgery
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2021


  • Academic career
  • Master’s degree
  • Neurosurgery
  • Residency

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Surgery


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