Factors Influencing Subspecialty Choice of Orthopedic Residents: Effect of Gender, Year in Residency, and Presumptive Subspecialty

Bennet A. Butler, Daniel Johnson, Robert A. Christian, Stephen D. Bigach, Matthew D. Beal, Terrance D. Peabody

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Background: Subspecialty training is a common part of orthopedic surgical training. The factors which influence resident subspecialty choice have important residency design and workforce implications. Our objective was to present survey data gathered from orthopedic residents regarding their fellowship plans and relative importance of factors which influence those plans. Methods: An anonymous online survey tool was developed and distributed to orthopedic residents through their program directors at academic institutions across the country with orthopedic surgery residency programs. Results: 227 residents completed the survey. 97% planned to pursue fellowship training after residency. The most common presumptive subspecialties were sports (29.7%), joints (17.3%) and shoulder/ elbow (12.8%). The majority of senior residents (57%) reported that their subspecialty choice had changed during residency. When making their choice of subspecialty, residents were most influenced by their experiences working on the subspecialty service in question, their experiences working with a mentor, and intellectual interest. The factors influencing their choice were affected by gender, residency year and presumptive subspecialty. Conclusions: The most critical factors influencing subspecialty choice of orthopedic residents included experiences in rotations as a resident, intellectual interest and mentors in certain subspecialties. Factors influencing subspecialty choice changes over the course of residency and differ between male and female residents. This information may be useful for residency design, mentorship structuring, career counseling and for addressing subspecialty surpluses or shortages which arise in the future.Level of Evidence: IV.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)19-23
Number of pages5
JournalThe Iowa orthopaedic journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2020


  • education
  • fellowship
  • orthopaedic surgery
  • residency
  • subspecialty

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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