American Council of Academic Plastic Surgeons
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Medical students' perceived access to research and areas for potential intervention: a comparison of two medical campuses
Ayushi Sharma BS1; Kurt Shaffer BS1; Paige Fox MD PhD2; Thomas Gillespie MD1
1Creighton University School of Medicine, Phoenix, AZ, USA 2Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, CA, USA

Background: Integrated plastic surgery residency applicants are evaluated based on several selection criteria, including USMLE scores, letters of recommendation, research productivity, and AOA status. Availability of mentors, school location, and emphasis on research play key factors in research productivity. Uniquely, third- and fourth-year students at our medical school do their preclinical years at Campus A, with two-thirds of each class attending Campus A and one-third attending Campus B for rotations. This creates differences in mentor-student ratios that may afford different opportunities. This study aimed to characterize the differences in research environments and evaluate the avenues for and barriers to involvement in research
Methods: A total of 52 third- and fourth-year medical students across both clinical campuses completed email surveys querying the research involvement of the students during medical school and the avenues used and barriers experienced by each respondent
Results: The average number of unique research experiences per respondent was 2.8 for Campus A and 3.4 for Campus B (p=0.276). Average research output per person, defined as total number of posters, abstracts, and presentations, was 7.6 projects for Campus A and 8.7 projects for Campus B (p=0.256). However, among fourth-year students, this number was 3.35 for Campus A and 4.83 for Campus B (p=0.085). The most commonly reported avenues to research involved outreach to the student (49.1%) and self-initiation (37.7%). The most commonly reported barriers were categorized as student knowledge or skill deficits (44.5%) and a deficit in mentorship (19.6%)
Conclusion: Increased mentor-student ratios do not necessarily correlate with increased research involvement among students. While it was found that graduating M4s at a high mentor-student ratio campus had a greater number of unique research experiences, the relationship did not hold true for total research output or when comparing the number of unique experiences among all students. A significant proportion of respondents reported systemic barriers, including non-response from mentors and unawareness of available projects, which are potential confounders in any association between student-mentor ratios. While the most common avenue for involvement was via outreach by residents, attendings, and administration, these barriers present an opportunity to improve involvement through tailored internal structures.

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