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While previous studies have described career outcomes of physician-scientist trainees after graduation, trainee perceptions of research-intensive career pathways remain unclear. This study sought to identify the perceived interests, factors, and challenges associated with academic and research careers among predoctoral MD trainees, MD trainees with research-intense (>50%) career intentions (MD-RI), and MD-PhD trainees.
A 70-question survey was administered to 16,418 trainees at 32 academic medical centers from September 2012 to December 2014. MD vs. MD-RI (>50% research intentions) vs. MD-PhD trainee responses were compared by chi-square tests. Multivariate logistic regression analyses were performed to identify variables associated with academic and research career intentions.
There were 4433 respondents (27% response rate), including 2625 MD (64%), 653 MD-RI (15%), and 856 MD-PhD (21%) trainees. MD-PhDs were most interested in pursuing academia (85.8%), followed by MD-RIs (57.3%) and MDs (31.2%). Translational research was the primary career intention for MD-PhD trainees (42.9%). Clinical duties were the primary career intention for MD-RIs (51.9%) and MDs (84.2%). While 39.8% of MD-PhD respondents identified opportunities for research as the most important career selection factor, only 12.9% of MD-RI and 0.5% of MD respondents shared this perspective. Interest in basic research, translational research, clinical research, education, and the ability to identify a mentor were each independently associated with academic career intentions by multivariate regression.
Predoctoral MD, MD-RI, and MD-PhD trainees are unique cohorts with different perceptions and interests toward academic and research careers. Understanding these differences may help to guide efforts to mentor the next generation of physician-scientists.
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