An undergraduate surgery interest group: Introducing premedical students to the practice of surgery

Victor Vakayil, Malavika Chandrashekar, Jack Hedberg, Brent D. Bauman, Shray Malik, Derek Yerxa, Lois G. Hendrickson, Peter Kernahan, Megan E. Hadley, James V. Harmon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Purpose: Early exposure and surgical mentorship can augment interest in surgery. We evaluate the effect and feasibility of offering education and mentorship opportunities in surgery to premedical students at our institution through an undergraduate surgery interest group (USIG).

Materials and Methods: We conducted a 1-year assessment of our USIG and reviewed its organizational structure, funding resources, media promotion, and educational activities. Our USIG hosted introductory-level surgical skills workshops, guest lectures by surgeons, and various facility tours. To assess participants' interests, as well as the influences on them to pursue a surgical profession, we analyzed pre- and post-event questionnaires. Similar questionnaires were completed by medical students in our medical student surgery interest group to compare any differences in perception between premedical and medical students.

Results: Our USIG currently has 378 undergraduate student members, with a higher proportion of women than in our medical student surgery interest group ( P < 0.003). Neurosurgery was the most popular career choice among undergraduate participants. Participants reported the highest satisfaction with suturing and high-fidelity trauma surgery skills workshops. Undergraduate participants indicated that their intrinsic interest in the sciences is the highest motivation to pursue a surgical profession. Resident lifestyle and social obligations of a surgical career were actually positive influences for undergraduate participants; in contrast, medical students viewed those variables as negative factors.

Conclusion: Our USIG was met with enthusiasm by premedical students and faculty alike. Participation strengthened premedical students' interest in pursuing surgery and increased their understanding of the surgical profession. Early mentorship may positively influence premedical students' perception of surgical careers. USIG is economically feasible and time-efficient; we encourage other academic institutions and educators to consider investing in similar interest groups.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)339-349
Number of pages11
JournalAdvances in Medical Education and Practice
StatePublished - 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors thank Mary E. Knatterud, PhD, for her assistance in editing and reviewing this manuscript. We also acknowledge Marissa Peyer, BS, and Raghav Vadhul, BS, for their assistance in creating figures and tables. We would like to thank the Mick Lord Medical Education Fellowship Fund, James Lord Surgical Fellowship Fund, and William W Harmon Surgery Education and Research Fund. An earlier version of this article was presented at the American College of Surgeons Clinical Congress in Washington, DC, in 2016.

Funding Information:
The USIG is a registered student group that provides a platform for over 35,000 undergraduate students to explore their career interests. The group facilitates communication between surgeons, surgical residents, and medical students. Instituted in 2015, it is an initiative led by our Department of Surgery faculty that offers introductory-level surgical skills workshops, focused group activities, along with high-and low-fidelity simulation-based exercises. Surgery laboratory tours, hospital and adjunct facility tours, surgeon-led research drives, guest lectures by surgeons, interactive panel discussions, and social gatherings are some of the various activities organized by the group. (Table 1) The objectives of USIG are to: 1) bolster interest in surgery; 2) enable undergraduate students to evaluate their aptitude for a surgical career; 3) provide hands-on experiences; 4) facilitate mentorship by surgeons, residents, and medical students; and 5) discuss the ethics of patient autonomy. The group currently has 378 undergraduate student members. All activities are organized by a 5-member student leadership board, which meets every other week to coordinate monthly events. Department of Surgery faculty advisers oversee the activities and help the students secure resources, schedule events, and identify speakers. Since USIG’s inception in 2015, more than 50 surgeons and surgical residents have participated, including community and academic surgeons, research faculty, and residents from our institution as well as neighboring institutions. Activities have been supported by small grants and funds obtained from the University’s Student Union and Activities Office and from the Student Association.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Vakayil et al.


  • Career choice
  • Mentorship
  • Premedical education
  • Premedical vs medical
  • Surgical education
  • Surgical skills

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


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