American Council of Academic Plastic Surgeons
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The Impact of Early Exposure to Plastic Surgery on Medical Student Specialty Choice
Tyler Jarvis BS1; Victoria Aime MD2; Anthony Smith MD2
1Mayo Clinic Alix School of Medicine, Scottsdale, AZ, USA; 2Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Department of Surgery, Mayo Clinic, Phoenix, AZ, USA

Background: Plastic surgery remains among the most competitive graduate medical training programs in the United States. Matched candidates are routinely among the highest achievers in terms of academic performance, research, and demonstrated leadership. Herein, we investigated the impact of exposure timing to plastic surgery on choice to pursue plastic surgery residency.
Methods: An electronic survey regarding the influence of early exposure and mentorship on the decision to pursue plastic surgery residency was sent to all current trainees via the American Council of Academic Plastic Surgeons (ACAPS). Anonymous responses were collected and analyzed using descriptive statistics.
Results: There were 70 responders to the survey, with responses from trainees in each post-graduate year of training. The majority (71.4%) reported that they had decided to pursue plastic surgery residency during medical school, and 66% specified the decision was made during their 3rd year. Of note, 42.9% wish they had decided sooner, and 61.4% would have if given earlier exposure to the field. Overall, 65.7% thought they would have been stronger applicants to plastic surgery residency programs if given earlier exposure to the field during medical school. Respondents who reported exposure to the field prior to their third year of medical school (41.4%) stated their initial exposure was very or extremely impactful (89.7%) to their decision to pursue a career in plastic surgery. Of the same group, most regarded this exposure as very or extremely impactful (79.3%) on how they spent their time in medical school to prepare for residency application. The top three reported types of exposure by trainees during or after third year of medical school were clinical exposure (90%), research (55.7%), and mentorship (61.4%). Clinical exposure had or would have had the most impact on choosing plastic surgery for 71.4% of respondents.
Conclusion: A lack of exposure to plastic surgery early in medical school, possibly due to the absence of a home program or limited involvement in the medical school curriculum, can hinder medical student choice to pursue and prepare for plastic surgery residency. Facilitating early exposure for preclinical medical students may contribute to a more diverse group of successful candidates.

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