Medical Student Career Choice and Mental Rotations Ability

Brandt, Michael G.; Wright, Erin D.
June 2005
Clinical & Investigative Medicine;Jun2005, Vol. 28 Issue 3, p112
Academic Journal
Purpose: To determine whether innate visual-spatial ability influences medical student choice of a surgical career. In addition, the student's career interests on entering medical school (matriculation) predicted application and acceptance to a residency program. Methods: Fifty-nine fourth year medical students at the University of Western Ontario completed a career choice questionnaire that identified the residency program(s) to which they showed interest at the time of matriculation, the program(s) to which they applied, and the residency program(s) to which they matched. The selections were compared with the student's score on the Vandenberg & Kuse Mental Rotations Test, a test of visual-spatial ability. Results: Graduates initially interested in visual-spatially intense medical disciplines scored better (P < 0.02) on the Mental Rotations Test. The findings did not persist to the time of application and acceptance into residency training programs. There was no correlation between visual-spatial ability and selection of a visual- spatially intense specialty. Only 32% of graduates applied to their specialty of initial interest. Conclusion: The ability to rotate an object in three dimensions mentally does not to play an important role in surgical career selection although it was a predictor of initial career interest upon entry to medical school. Initial career interest was not an accurate predictor of career choice in general. In contrast to the overall results, 71% of individuals initially interested in family medicine ultimately applied to this medical discipline.


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