Sneak Peek: Is a Career in Medicine the Right Choice? The Impact of a Physician Shadowing Program on Undergraduate Premedical Students

Here’s a preview of a soon-to-be-published innovation report by Jennifer Y. Wang and colleagues.

Is a Career in Medicine the Right Choice? The Impact of a Physician Shadowing Program on Undergraduate Premedical Students

Jennifer Y. Wang, Hillary Lin, Patricia Y. Lewis, MA, David M. Fetterman, PhD, and Neil Gesundheit, MD, MPH



Undergraduate (i.e., baccalaureate) premedical students have limited exposure to clinical practice before applying to medical school—a shortcoming, given the personal and financial resources required to complete medical training.


The Stanford Immersion in Medicine Series (SIMS) is a program that streamlines the completion of regulatory requirements for premedical students and allows them to develop one-on-one mentor-mentee relationships with practicing physicians. The program, offered quarterly (in 10-week sessions) since 2007, is an elective available for Stanford University sophomores, juniors, and seniors. Participants apply to the program, and if accepted receive patient-rights and professionalism training. Students shadow the physician they are paired with at least four times and submit a reflective essay about their experience.

SIMS program coordinators administered surveys before and after shadowing to assess changes in students’ perceptions and understanding of medical careers.


The authors observed, in the 61 Stanford premedical students who participated in SIMS between March and June 2010 and completed both post- and pre-program questionnaires, significant increases in familiarity with physician responsibilities and in understanding physician-patient interactions. The authors detected no significant changes in student commitment to pursuing medicine. Student perception of the value of shadowing—high both pre- and post-shadowing—did not change.

Next Steps

Physician shadowing by premedical baccalaureate students appears to promote an understanding of physician roles and workplace challenges. Future studies should identify the ideal timing, format, and duration of shadowing to optimize the experience and allow students to make informed decisions about whether to pursue a career in medicine.

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