Open Access Open Badges Research article

Medical students’ choices of specialty in The Gambia: the need for career counseling

Mustapha Bittaye1, Akin-Tunde Ademola Odukogbe2*, Ousman Nyan3, Bintou Jallow4 and Akinyinka O Omigbodun2

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, KorleBu University Teaching Hospital, Accra, Ghana

2 Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, College of Medicine, University of Ibadan, Ibadan, Nigeria

3 Department of Medicine, School of Medicine and Allied Health Sciences, University of The Gambia, Banjul, The Gambia

4 Department of Medicine, Royal Victoria Teaching Hospital, Banjul, The Gambia

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BMC Medical Education 2012, 12:72  doi:10.1186/1472-6920-12-72

Published: 8 August 2012



Understanding preferences for specialties by medical students and the factors driving choices assists policy makers in ensuring optimal spread of personnel across disciplines.


This cross-sectional survey using self-administered structured questionnaires was conducted on consenting students of the first medical school in The Gambia, established in 1999. Data collection was in June/July 2011. Questions were on sociodemographic characteristics of students, their parents, factors related to career preferences and opinions about counseling services. Data were analysed using JMP 8.0 software.


Respondents were 52.4% of 202 eligible students. Mean age was 24.1 ± 5.0 years. Females constituted 54.7%. Muslims were 72.7% while Gambians formed 77.0%. Commonest specialties chosen by females were Obstetrics/Gynaecology, Paediatrics and Surgery in that order, while males preferred Internal Medicine, Surgery and Obstetrics/Gynaecology. Commonest factors influencing choices by females were ‘focus on urgent care’ (65.5%) and ‘intellectual content of specialty’ (56.9%). For males, these were ‘intellectual content of specialty’ (60.4%) and ‘focus on urgent care’ / ‘individual’s competence’ (50.0% each). More females (30.0%) than males (23.0%) had ever received career counseling, but all students desired it.


Significant gender differences exist in specialty choices and factors influencing these choices amongst these students. All want career counseling.

Medical students; Specialties; Choices; Careers