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  • Neurosurgery Elective for Preclinical Medical Students: Early Exposure and Changing Attitudes

    Final Number:

    Scott L. Zuckerman MD; Akshitkumar Mistry; Rimal Hanif MD; Joseph S. Neimat; John C. Wellons MD; J Mocco; Allen K. Sills MD; Matthew J. McGirt MD; Reid C. Thompson MD

    Study Design:

    Subject Category:

    Meeting: Congress of Neurological Surgeons 2014 Annual Meeting

    Introduction: Exposure to surgical sub-specialties is limited during the preclinical years of medical school. To offset this limitation, we created a Neurosurgery Elective for first and second year medical students. Our objective was to provide each student with early exposure to the field of neurosurgery by combining clinical experience with faculty discussions about the academic and personal realities of a career in neurosurgery.

    Methods: From 2012 to 2013, we offered a comprehensive Neurosurgery Elective to first and second year medical students (Table 1, Figure 1-2). An introductory session was followed by 6 classes. Each class consisted of the following: 1) journal club; 2) student presentation; 3) faculty academic lecture; 4) faculty personal lecture followed by a question and answer session. All students completed anonymous pre- and post-elective surveys (Figure 3).

    Results: Thirty-five students were enrolled over a two-year period. The elective significantly increased student’s knowledge across 11 areas. After completing the elective, students were more likely to: consider neurosurgery as a future career (p<0.001), perceive the personalities of attendings to be more collegial and friendly (p<0.001), perceive attending quality of life to be higher (p=0.01), and feel it was achievable to be a neurosurgeon and have a family (p<0.001). The elective did not alter students’ perceptions about how emotionally draining neurosurgery can be (p=0.09) or how difficult the training is (p=0.62). Results are summarized in Table 2.

    Conclusions: Our elective significantly increased knowledge across several areas, changed perception about collegiality, quality of life, and family/work balance, while not altering the student’s views of the emotional toll of treating neurosurgical patients or the difficulty of training. We conclude that adopting a neurosurgery elective can significantly change attitudes about the field of neurosurgery in a group of preclinical medical students and has potential to increase interest in pursuing a career in neurosurgery.

    Patient Care: By exposing medical students to an accurate portrayal of neurosurgery by those in the field, we hope to recruit the best, most talented, and most interested medical students for a future career in neurosurgery.

    Learning Objectives: To describe in granular detail how to start a neurosurgical elective for preclinical medical students. To show how early exposure to neurosurgery can change preexisting attitudes of what a future career in neurosurgery entails.


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