Choosing a Medical Specialty 101

Student Interest Video Stresses Critical Thinking About Career Choice

March 20, 2013 12:25 am News Staff

The AAFP is betting that a short video -- just one minute and thirteen seconds long -- will convince medical students to pause and reflect on the biggest decision they'll face in medical school: their choice of specialty.

[Stock photo of students, mentor gathered around a laptop]

Stan Kozakowski, M.D., director of the AAFP Division of Medical Education, urged his colleagues who work with medical students and premed students to use the new video as a tool when talking with them about specialty choice. "We want family physicians to make the video work for family medicine. I encourage members to e-mail the video link -- -- to students and post it to social media websites," he said.

Kozakowski told AAFP News Now that the video represents an organizational shift in how the AAFP approaches student interest in the specialty. "The video builds on the Academy's efforts to directly communicate with students about the multitude of factors that influence their decision-making," said Kozakowski. "The entire process should take place through the lens of critical assessment."

The video, which can be viewed below, was made public on March 15, the same day that the National Resident Matching Program released the 2013 results of its annual event known as the Match. The Match sets newly minted physicians on their chosen career course by aligning them with residency training programs in a particular medical specialty.

Serious though the topic may be, the animated video is creative and fast-paced to capture the interest of its intended youthful audience. The video narrator asks medical students to step back and ask themselves if they are relying on facts or myths to guide them in their specialty choices.

Student Interest Video

The video spells out six specific categories -- people, programs, payment, policy, perception and personal characteristics -- that should be considered in every student's decision-making process.

For example, medical students need to factor into their analysis of various specialty choices their own unique experiences -- those that really stand apart in medical school memories -- focusing on the

  • people (be they peers, parents or faculty) who were most influential;
  • mentors whose qualities they especially admired;
  • programs in which they voluntarily chose to participate; and
  • clerkships and clinical encounters they found most enjoyable.

In closing, the video leaves student viewers with this final charge: "The future of health care is changing. Revisiting your motivation for becoming a physician will help as you make this complex life decision."