Introduction: Early medical student exposure to neurosurgery through preclinical electives has been shown to improve recruitment, yet the effect on students without a home neurosurgery program is unknown. We conducted a preclinical neurosurgery elective in a mixed cohort of students with and without a neurosurgery program to: 1) evaluate pre- and post-elective neurosurgery perceptions, 2) discern differences between cohorts, and 3) identify important factors in those considering neurosurgery a career.
Methods: A yearly neurosurgery elective was offered to students enrolled at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine (VUSM; home program) or Meharry Medical College (MMC; no home program) from 2017-2018. Each class included three components: student-led presentation, faculty academic lecture, and faculty non-academic discussion. Pre- and post-course surveys were completed.
Results: Thirty-two students completed the course. Post-course surveys showed that both VUSM and MMC students felt more educated about the field/subspecialties, research, and practice settings. VUSM students showed no changes in perceptions of the field, whereas MMC students had multiple improved perceptions, including neurosurgery’s future (P=0.025), personalities and collegiality (P=0.001), and achievability of family (P=0.010). Fourteen (44%) students showed a significant increase in considering neurosurgery as a career, eight of which (57%) were in the MMC group. Students more likely to consider neurosurgery significantly improved in level of emotional draining (P=0.042), personalities and collegiality (P=0.003), and achievability of family (P=0.001), but not residency difficulty (P=0.102) or financial security (P=0.380). Those whose interest was neutral/decreased after the course showed no changes in these perceptions.
Conclusions: Early exposure to neurosurgery at medical schools without a home department may improve students’ preconceived notions and attitudes about neurosurgery. Preclinical electives provide valuable, accurate information about the benefits and rigors of neurosurgery, allowing students to make informed decisions about pursuing the field further. This first-hand experience may broaden the net of residency recruitment.
Patient Care: Preclinical neurosurgery electives have been shown to improve recruitment into neurosurgery; however, the effect on students without a home neurosurgery program is unknown. This study describes the use of such an elective to provide neurosurgical exposure to students who may not have otherwise been discovered. This may increase overall interest in neurosurgery, thereby improving the care provided by future generations of neurosurgeons.
Learning Objectives: By the conclusion of this session, participants should be able to (1) describe the utility of preclinical neurosurgery electives and (2) identify the importance of providing neurosurgical exposure to students from schools without a home program.