OBJECTIVE:: The purpose of this study was to assess indebtedness among academic surgeons and its repercussions on personal finances, quality of life, and career choices. SUMMARY BACKGROUND DATA:: The influence of educational debt on academic surgical career choices and quality of life is unknown. We hypothesized that educational debt affects professional choices and quality of life. METHODS:: A web-based survey was designed to assess respondent demographics, educational and consumer indebtedness, and the influence of educational debt on career choices and quality of life among academic surgeons. RESULTS:: Five hundred fifty-five surgeons responded (20.6% response rate). Two hundred seventy-four (66%) respondents finished postgraduate training with educational debt, 139 (34%) reported no debt, and 142 (26%) did not respond. Among those with educational debt, mean educational debt was $90,801 and mean noneducational consumer debt was $32,319. Individuals without educational debt reported a mean of $15,104 of noneducational consumer debt (P < 0.001) and had higher mean salaries (P ≤ 0.017) versus those with educational debt. Eighty-seven percent of respondents with educational debt would make the same career choice again. However, 35% acknowledged it placed a strain on their relationship with their significant other, 48% felt it influenced the type of living accommodations they could afford, and 29% reported it forced their significant other to work. Alarmingly, 32% of academic surgeons would not recommend their career choice to their children or medical students. CONCLUSIONS:: Many academic surgeons reported that their educational debt affected their academic productivity, career choices, and quality of life. Consequently, efforts to mitigate the impact of educational debt on academic surgeons are required to ensure medical students continue to pursue academic surgical careers.
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