Background. Student perceptions of surgeons and surgical careers may influence their decision to pursue a surgical career. We evaluated the impact of a general surgery clerkship on medical student perceptions of surgeons and surgical careers and of the clerkship on student interest in surgical careers. Methods. We conducted voluntary pre- and postclerkship surveys of third-year medical students who were enrolled in their required general surgery clerkship and used 5-point Likert scale rankings to capture agreement with declarative statements (1 = strongly agree; 5 = strongly disagree). T-tests were used to evaluate both paired and individual items. Results. Students indicated that their surgical clerkship improved their opinion of surgeons (2.47; P < .001). Several perceptions changed after the clerkship. First, students agreed more strongly that surgeons were compassionate physicians (ranking, 2.87 vs 2.53; P = .003) and that patients respected surgeons (ranking, 1.84 vs 1.62; P = .026). Acknowledgment of career satisfaction by students increased (ranking, 2.57 vs 2.22; P = .008). Students more strongly disagreed that "surgeons [were] respectful of other physicians" (ranking, 3.29 vs 3.62; P = .009). Interest in surgical careers did not change significantly during the clerkship (ranking, 2.83 vs 2.68; P = .218). Conclusion. Medical student perceptions of surgeons and surgical careers generally improve during the surgical clerkship. However, student impressions of surgeons' collegial behavior and commitment to teaching deteriorate significantly during the surgical clerkship.
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