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Factors Related to Choosing an Academic Career Track Among Spine Fellowship Applicants

Park, Daniel K., MD*; Rhee, John M., MD; Wu, Baohua, MS; Easley, Kirk, MS

doi: 10.1097/BRS.0b013e31826fecba
Health Services Research
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Study Design. Retrospective review.

Objective. To identify factors associated with the likelihood of spine surgery fellowship applicants choosing an academic job upon fellowship completion.

Summary of Background Data. Training academic spine surgeons is an important goal of many spine fellowships. However, there are no established criteria associated with academic job choice to guide selection committees.

Methods. Two hundred three consecutive applications of candidates who were granted an interview to a single spine surgical fellowship from 2005 to 2010 were analyzed. Factors investigated included the following: membership in honor societies; number of publications, presentations, and book chapters; age; completion of an additional degree; completion of a research fellowship; teaching experience; marital status; graduation from a top-20 school; attendance in a residency with a spine fellowship; and comments made in personal statements and letters of recommendation. The job taken upon graduation from fellowship was determined. The χ2 test or Fisher exact test was used to estimate the strength of the association between the covariates and response. Significant variables were selected for further multivariate analysis.

Results. The following were significantly associated in a univariable analysis with academia: 5 or more national presentations; completion of a research fellowship; attendance in a top-20 medical school; stated desire in the personal statement to become an academic surgeon; and letters of reference stating likelihood of pursuing academics on hiring the applicant. When significant variables were selected for multivariable analysis, completion of a research fellowship, graduation from a top-20 medical school, and stated desire in the personal statement to become an academic surgeon were most strongly associated with choice of academia.

Conclusion. Although job choice is multifactorial, the present study demonstrates that there are objective factors listed on spine fellowship applications associated with a significantly higher likelihood of academic job choice. Analyzing these factors may help selection committees evaluate spine fellowship applicants consistent with the academic missions of their programs.

Training academic spine surgeons is an important goal for many spine fellowships. However, there are no established predictive criteria to assist the decision-making process. Although job choice is multifactorial, the present study demonstrates that there may be objective factors elucidated from fellowship applications suggestive of those likely to choose academia.

*Department of Orthopedic Surgery, William Beaumont Hospital, Southfield, MI

Department of Orthopedic Surgery, Emory University, Atlanta, GA; and

Department Biostatistics & Bioinformatics, Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University, Atlanta, GA.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to John M. Rhee, MD. 59 Executive Park South. Atlanta, GA 30329; E-mail: jmrhee@emory.edu

Acknowledgment date: February 1, 2012. First revision date: August 4, 2012. Acceptance date: August 13, 2012.

The manuscript submitted does not contain information about medical device(s)/drug(s).

No funds were received in support of this work.

One or more of the author(s) has/have received or will receive benefits for personal or professional use from a commercial party related directly or indirectly to the subject of this manuscript: e.g., honoraria, gifts, consultancies, royalties, stocks, stock options, decision making position.

© 2013 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.