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Peer Nominations as Related to Academic Attainment, Empathy, Personality, and Specialty Interest

Pohl, Charles A. MD; Hojat, Mohammadreza PhD; Arnold, Louise PhD

Academic Medicine:
doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e318217e464
Peer Evaluation

Purpose: To test the hypotheses that peer nomination is associated with measures of (1) academic performance, (2) empathy, (3) personality, and (4) specialty interest.

Method: In 2007–2008, 255 third-year medical students at Jefferson Medical College were asked to nominate classmates they considered the best in six areas of clinical and humanistic excellence. The authors compared students who received nominations with those who did not, analyzing differences in academic performance, personality factors (empathy as measured by the Jefferson Scale of Empathy and personality qualities as measured by the Zuckerman–Kuhlman Personality Questionnaire), and specialty interests.

Results: A comparison of the 155 students who received at least one peer nomination with the 100 students who received none found no significant difference in scores on objective examinations; nominated students, however, were rated significantly higher in clinical competence by faculty in six core third-year clerkships. Nominated students were also significantly more empathic and “active.” In addition, a larger proportion of nominated students choose “people-oriented” (rather than “technology- or procedure-oriented”) specialties.

Conclusions: These results confirmed the hypotheses that peer nomination can predict clinical competence, empathy and other positive personal qualities, and interest in people-oriented specialties. Thus, in the assessment of medical students, peer nomination holds promise as a valid indicator of positive dimensions of professionalism.

Author Information

Dr. Pohl is professor of pediatrics, Department of Pediatrics, and senior associate dean for student affairs and career counseling, Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Dr. Hojat is research professor of psychiatry and human behavior, Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior, and director, Jefferson Longitudinal Study of Medical Education, Center for Research in Medical Education and Health Care, Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Dr. Arnold is professor, Office of Medical Education and Research, and associate dean for medical education, University of Missouri–Kansas City School of Medicine, Kansas City, Missouri.

Correspondence should be addressed to Dr. Pohl, Jefferson Medical College, 1020 Locust Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107; telephone: (215) 503-6988; fax: (215) 503-7510; e-mail:

First published online April 20, 2011

© 2011 Association of American Medical Colleges