Attracting neurology's next generation: A qualitative study of specialty choice and perceptions

Justin T. Jordan, Carolyn Cahill, Tasha Ostendorf, Laurie Gutmann, Anita Navarro, Charlene E. Gamaldo, Veronica E. Santini, Imran Ali, Madhu Soni, Rujuta B. Wilson, Rana R. Said, Barry M. Czeisler, Maggie Rock, A. Gordon Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


ObjectivesTo better understand the reasons medical students select or avoid a career in neurology by using a qualitative methodology to explore these factors, with the long-Term objective of attracting more graduates to the field.MethodsIn 2017, 27 medical students and 15 residents participated in 5 focus groups, and 33 fourth-year medical students participated in semistructured individual interviews. Participants were asked predefined open-ended questions about specialty choice, experiences in their basic neuroscience course and neurology clerkship, and perceptions about the field. Interviews were audio recorded and transcribed. We used a flexible coding methodology to generate themes across groups and interviews.ResultsFour main analytical themes emerged: (1) early and broad clinical exposure allows students to "try on"neurology and experience the variety of career options; (2) preclerkship experiences and a strong neuroscience curriculum lay the foundation for interest in the field; (3) personal interactions with neurology providers may attract or deter students from considering the specialty; and (4) persistent stereotypes about neurologists, neurology patients, and treatment options harm student perceptions of neurology.ConclusionEfforts to draw more students to neurology may benefit from focusing on clinical correlations during preclerkship neuroscience courses and offering earlier and more diverse clinical experiences, including hands-on responsibilities whenever possible. Finally, optimizing student interactions with faculty and residents and reinforcing the many positive aspects of neurology are likely to favorably affect student perceptions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E1080-E1090
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 25 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology


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