Recruiting Medical Students to Neurosurgery Through a Focused Neuroanatomy Lab Initiative

Sakibul Huq, Adham M. Khalafallah, Wataru Ishida, Jose L. Porras, Ryan P. Lee, Jordina Rincon-Torroella, Teresa Wojtasiewicz, Risheng Xu, Alan R. Cohen, Debraj Mukherjee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Objective: Many medical students find neurosurgery interesting, but few pursue it as a career. Reasons for this mismatch include lack of exposure and poor perceptions of its career demands, work–life balance, personalities, and patient outcomes. It is imperative to recruit promising students early in medical school to build a pipeline of future neurosurgeons. We aimed to recruit medical students to neurosurgery and improve perceptions of the field by hosting an optional cadaver laboratory event (Neuroanatomy Lab Initiative [NLI]) during first-year students' gross anatomy course. Methods: Five neurosurgery residents and a rotating faculty member led students through the hands-on performance of a retrosigmoid craniotomy on 4 anatomic specimens in the students' cadaveric laboratory. Questionnaires with 6-point Likert scores were distributed to students before and after the NLI. Results: Thirty-nine students with broad specialty interests and previous experiences attended. They perceived neurosurgery to be demanding, competitive, and incongruent with work–life balance and family. At baseline, their interest in neurosurgery was high despite perceived lack of knowledge about the field. Students were eager to participate in neurosurgical procedures and interactions with neurosurgeons. After the NLI, students felt more knowledgeable about neurosurgery and perceived neurosurgery faculty and residents as more pleasant/friendly, approachable, and satisfied with their careers. Conclusions: An NLI during first-year medical students' anatomy course was an effective, relatively low-resource means of engaging students and improving their perceptions of neurosurgery. We provide a framework for scaling this initiative to other institutions to help recruit the next generation of neurosurgeons.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e535-e546
JournalWorld neurosurgery
StatePublished - May 2020


  • Anatomy laboratory
  • Medical education
  • Medical student
  • Neurosurgery
  • Recruitment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Clinical Neurology


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