Association for Surgical Education
Surgical residents as medical student mentors
Scott Q. Nguyen, M.D.*, Celia M. Divino, M.D.
Department of Surgery, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, 5 E. 98th St., 15th Floor, Box 1259, New York, NY 10029, USA
Manuscript received March 31, 2006; revised manuscript July 17, 2006
Presented in abstract form at the 2006 Annual Meeting of the Association of Surgical Education, Tucson, AZ, April 24 –27, 2006
Background: Medical students’ decreasing interest in surgery may be caused by the inadequate avail-
ability of role models. We believe that surgical residents show the qualities of outstanding surgical mentors
and are in a key position to inﬂuence students’ career choices.
Methods: In 2004–2005, 117 medical students at Mount Sinai School of Medicine completed their
third-year surgery clerkship. They were asked to complete an anonymous survey regarding a career in
surgery and surgical mentors.
Results: A total of 107 students (91%) completed the survey. Seventy-nine percent were inﬂuenced
positively toward a surgical career after the clerkship. A higher fraction of these students identiﬁed a
mentor or role model than the students who did not increase their interest in surgery (95% vs 52%).
Residents scored higher than attendings in 12 of 14 qualities describing outstanding clinical mentors (P Ͻ .001).
Conclusions: Role models are crucial in bolstering medical students’ interest in surgical careers. Resi-
dents are identiﬁed as having qualities that are essential to being an outstanding mentor and residents may
play a role in inﬂuencing students’ career choices. © 2007 Excerpta Medica Inc. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Surgery residents; Medical students; Mentors; Role models
Medical students’ decreasing interest in surgical careers has
been attributed to multiple reasons: the desire for a control-
lable lifestyle, residency length, and ﬁnancial burdens all
may be factors contributing to the decrease in applications
to general surgery residency programs [1–3]. Another rea-
son may be the inadequate availability of surgical role
models. Attending surgeons often are faulted for not playing
a large enough role in the mentoring process [4–6]. Unfor-
tunately, clinical and research commitments often over-
shadow teaching responsibilities. These obligations leave
hardly enough time to engage properly with students outside
of quick, informal interactions.
Medical students rotate through their surgery clerkships,
interacting signiﬁcantly with surgery residents. Residents
offer the ﬁrst line of clinical exposure for many students and
their interactions comprise the majority of a student’s day.
They are guides for the clerkship— escorts through the
complications of wards and liaisons for interactions with
clinical staff. However, residents often are overlooked as
having considerable impact on career choices. We believe
surgical residents show the qualities of outstanding surgical
mentors and are in a position to signiﬁcantly direct students
toward a surgical career. This study explored students’ views
regarding surgical mentors, speciﬁcally examining their asso-
ciation of mentoring qualities with their resident teachers.
During the academic year of 2004–2005, 117 medical
students completed their third-year surgery clerkships at the
Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, NY. On
completion of the rotation, the students were asked to com-
plete an anonymous written survey regarding their interest
in a surgical career and their ability to identify a surgical
mentor during the clerkship (Fig. 1). These surveys were
collected prospectively as each rotation of students com-
pleted their experience with the surgery department. Insti-
tutional Review Board approval was obtained for this study.
The students’ clerkships consisted of 3 weeks on a gen-
eral surgical team at a tertiary referral center, 3 weeks at an
inner-city community hospital, and a 2-week elective in a
surgical subspecialty. In all rotations, the students are inte-
gral parts of the surgical team, with both residents and
attendings active in their education. Activities include sur-
gery, outpatient clinics, and Emergency Department/inpa-
* Corresponding author. Tel.: ϩ1-212-241-5871; fax: ϩ1-212-410-
E-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org
The American Journal of Surgery 193 (2007) 90 –93
0002-9610/07/$ – see front matter © 2007 Excerpta Medica Inc. All rights reserved.