The Importance of Role Models in Medical Education

Role models are important for a number of reasons. Not only can they teach us important skills, they can inspire us to reach for more ambitious goals or consider a new career path altogether as well. In medical education, they have also been linked to speciality choice, making them especially interesting with regards to the under-representation of women in surgery.

But what are medical students looking for in a role model? Who do they choose as that inspiration that might influence their career path so strongly? A study by Wright an colleagues suggests that it is not necessarily status or success, but that other attributes such as personality and competence might be more important. They also showed that role model choice was indeed related to speciality choice and that students generally chose their role model before they had made up their mind about their future speciality. This highlights, again, how important role models are for shaping our future. With regards to surgery, this may be somewhat problematic – only 63% of participants indicated that they had encountered a sufficient number of role models from that discipline (compared to an average of 87% in the other specialities). And – although the authors don’t report on it – this number is likely to be even lower for women who generally prefer female role models.

By the way, we have also discussed role models in surgery in particular before. Click here to read that post.

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