Who Wants to be a Surgeon? A Survey of Medical Students at the University of Nairobi, Kenya

Author Information

Mwachaka P.M. BSc, Mbugua E. BSc Saidi H. Bsc, MbChB, MMed, FACS, Affiliation: School of Medicine, University of Nairobi, Kenya.

Corresponding author:

Dr. Philip Maseghe Mwachaka, P.O Box 30197-00100, Nairobi, Email: pmaseghe@gmail.com


Background: In Sub Saharan Africa, surgical conditions account for a significant disease burden. Surgical workforce is however inadequate, and thus strategies such as attracting medical students to surgical specialties could avert the situation. This study determined the proportion of students interested in pursuing surgical career and factors that influence choice of this specialty.

Methodology: Four hundred and fifty medical students, from first to fifth year of study at the University of Nairobi, were each issued a self administered questionnaire designed to assess their specialty preferences, and factors influencing these choices.

Results: The response rate was 385/450(85.6%). Surgery was the most popular specialty with 105(27.3%) students. Majority, 60(57%), of those who preferred surgery were in the preclinical years. Male students had a two-fold likelihood of selecting a surgical career compared to females. Significant factors that attracted students to surgery instead of non surgical careers were prestige of the specialty (p<0.001), presence of a role model (p=0.002), and intellectual challenge (p=0.005). Main deterring factors were ease of raising a family (p<0.001), length of residency (p<0.001) and lifestyle of practice (p=0.020).

Conclusion: Although surgery is the most preferred specialty among medical students at the University of Nairobi, there appears to be a declining interest among the clinical students. In order to attract and maintain student interest in the specialty, there is need for early and active mentoring.


The Annals of African Surgery is the official publication of the Surgical Society of Kenya.


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