Can personality tests predict your medical specialty?Monday, December 8th, 2008
The academic advisors in the deans offices of our country’s medical schools and the public health directors looking to admit medical students who will work in under served rural areas have long pondered how to predict a medical student’s specialty choice.
Can the senior faculty member read students in an admissions interview? Can your academic advisor help figure out which specialty will be most fulfilling for you? Can a personality test predict which specialty or research field you’re best suited for?
After taking a Myers-Briggs test recently, I came across a field of literature dating back to the 1950s about physician specialty choices. And nobody has looked at the difficult decisions of how to balance the career of a physician scientist using these crude tools. But some interesting insights came out of this. First, my personality type INTJ is associated with being a biomedical scientist/researcher (yeah!). If you know your type, check here for career matches, which include medical specialties.
One problem with the conclusions from the Myers Briggs data doesn’t seem to hold up with time. In the academic literature, this results in statements like “predictive validity of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator should be reexamined.” Some of this data goes back from the 1980s, and the nature of the professions have changed considerable. Moreover, it doesn’t tell us if these people made the correct choices–just that they made a choice based on their personality type. It would be interesting to look at satisfaction rates based on the personalities types, perhaps within a single specialty. But that leads to the last problem: statistics. The ratios are pretty weak because they researchers tackled an enormous question with just a few thousand people. And personality type is far from deterministic.
Where else might this head? Another quote from a Family Medicine journal article from 1985 indicates this is not a new idea: “This information may be useful in health manpower planning and in examining admissions policies of medical schools and residencies.” But since this hasn’t happened in the last 20 or so years, I think this will have to remain a pipe dream for those sensing, feeling types.
P.S. I’ve included a brief chart on specialty choice. For example, Child Psychiatrists are more likely to be NF (two of the 4 letters from a Myers-Briggs) than the other options. Also, I would be interested in comments about how this relates to the MD/PhD student.
sensing plus thinking (practical and matter-of-fact)
– sensing plus feeling (sympathetic and friendly)
intuition plus feeling (enthusiastic and insightful)
– intuition and thinking (logical and ingenious)
|Aerospace Medicine||20||1.37||Allergy||17||1.46||Child Psychiatry||38||1.77||Neurology||39||1.62|
|Preventive Medicine||12||1.37||Anesthesiology||60||1.36||Neurological Surgery||17||1.50||Pathology||92||1.54|
|Orthopedic Surgery||68||1.24||Occupational Medicine||21||1.29||Public Health||33||1.44||Pulmonary Diseases||26||1.45|
|General Practice||260||1.23||Family Practice||33||1.22||Preventive Medicine||11||1.33||Child Psychiatry||36||1.35|
|Dermatology||25||1.23||General Practice||217||1.18||Gastroenterology||20||1.32||Thoracic Surgery||35||1.21|
|General Surgery||165||1.18||Pediatrics||94||1.16||Plastic Surgery||16||126||Otolaryngology||27||1.18|
|Anesthesiology||58||1.15||Gastroenerology||16||1.14||Cardiovascular Disease||56||1.08||Internal Medicine||313||1.16|
|Radiology||61||1.05||Thoracic Surgery||24||1.10||Internal Medicine||234||1.08||Neurological Surgery||16||1.14|
|Family Practice||31||1.00||Obstetrics &
|Occupational Medicine||18||.97||Orthopedic Surgery||52||1.08||Thoracic Surgery||24||1.03||Plastic Surgery||17||1.07|
|Cardiovascular Disease||53||.96||Otolaryngology||18||1.05||Aerospace Medicine||14||1.02||Aerospace Medicine||17||1.00|
|Public Health||23||.94||General Surgery||123||1.00||Neurology||19||.98||Anesthesiology||58||.98|
|Pediatrics||81||.88||Pulmonary Disease||13||.97||Occupational Medicine||17||.97||Preventive Medicine||10||.97|
|Internal Medicine||195||.85||Public Health||19||.89||Radiology||52||.95||Orthopedic Surgery||62||.97|
|Ophthalmology||35||.84||Internal Medicine||176||87||Obstetrics &
|Neruological Surgery||9||.75||Cardiovascular Diseases||33||.69||General Surgery||122||.93||General Surgery||148||.90|
|Pulmonary Diseases||10||.65||Dermatology||11||.62||General Practice||171||.86||Urology||30||.88|
|Thoracic Surgery||16||.64||Pathology||26||.58||Pulmonary Diseases||12||.83||Dermatology||20||.84|
|Gastroenterology||10||.62||Neurological Surgery||6||.57||Urology||21||.77||Occupational Medicine||18||.83|
|Plastic Surgery||8||.59||Aerospace Medicine||7||.55||Allergy||9||.72||Family Practice||29||.80|
|Psychiatry||52||.50||Psychiatry||39||.43||Orthopedic Surgery||37||.72||General Practice||191||.78|
|Neruology||10||.49||Child Psychiatry||7||.35||Otolaryngology||13||.71||Public Health||22||.77|
|Child Psychiatry||10||.44||Preventive Medicine||2||.26||Anesthesiology||25||.53||Obstetrics &