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Correspondence and Brief Communications
September 2002

The X Generation

Arch Surg. 2002;137(9):1078. doi:

As senior medical students intending to pursue careers in academic surgery, we read the March 2002 issue of the ARCHIVES with great interest. Discussion of the purported generation gap in American surgery is of particular importance to those of us who have yet to embark on our formal surgical training. Although our peers' decreasing interest in rigorous surgical careers is quite evident,1 we take issue with the significance of this recent trend. The choice of a medical specialty by current students is influenced by the same desires for autonomy, a satisfying lifestyle, intellectual challenge, and financial remuneration that have always concerned physicians. This is not a "generation X" phenomenon; many surgeons of the previous generation have expressed increasing dissatisfaction with their profession and retire at an earlier age than their predecessors.2,3 Whereas our generation's concerns may be statistically borne out on match day, practicing surgeons may describe their profession as "impairing" and longingly remember the more surgeon-friendly environment of yesteryear.2 The rules of the marketplace and so-called behavioral economics will continue to influence specialty choice. The lifestyle concerns ascribed to our generation, however, are not universal. A vibrant, vocal minority of future surgeons relish the academic careers of our instructors. Many of us desire a lifestyle of innovative thinking, clinical mastery, research, and education. Despite current trends elucidated by statistical analysis, this field remains an attractive calling. We urge our mentors not to worry about "generation X" surgeons. Continue to inspire us.