PURPOSE: To describe diverse medical students' perceptions of and interest in careers in academic medicine. METHOD: In 2010, the authors invited students attending three national medical student conferences to respond to a survey and participate in six focus groups. The authors identified trends in data through bivariate analyses of the quantitative dataset and using a grounded theory approach in their analysis of focus group transcripts. RESULTS: The 601 survey respondents represented 103 U.S. medical schools. The majority (72%) were in their first or second year; 34% were black and 17% were Hispanic. Many respondents (64%) expressed interest in careers in academic medicine; teaching and research were viewed as positive influences on that interest. However, black and Hispanic respondents felt they would have a harder time succeeding in academia. The 73 focus group participants (25% black, 29% Hispanic) described individual- and institutional-level challenges to academic medicine careers and offered recommendations. They desired deliberate and coordinated exposure to academic career paths, research training, clarification of the promotion process, mentorship, protected time for faculty to provide teaching and research training, and an enhanced infrastructure to support diversity and inclusion. CONCLUSIONS: Medical students expressed an early interest in academic medicine but lacked clarity about the career path. Black and Hispanic students' perceptions of having greater difficulty succeeding in academia may be an obstacle to engaging them in the prospective pool of academicians. Strategic and dedicated institutional resources are needed to encourage racial and ethnic minority medical students to explore careers in academic medicine.
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