Featured Article| Volume 225, ISSUE 4, P650-655, April 2023

The Big Sibling program: Impact of a medical student-resident mentorship program during the surgery clerkship


      • The Big Sibling program provides important mentorship opportunities for students.
      • Students who engaged with their Big Sibling perceived the OR more positively.
      • Students valued the non-evaluative role of the Big Sibling.
      • Research residents did not find the program burdensome.



      We created a Big Sibling mentorship program for medical students and studied the program effects.


      Between July 2019 to December 2020, students completing their surgery clerkship were paired with a Big Sibling surgical research resident. Participation in and perceptions of the program were assessed by survey.


      81 medical students and 25 residents participated with a 79% and 95% survey response rate, respectively. The most valuable topics discussed included ward skills, personal development and career advising. Students who interacted >2 times with their Big Sibling were more likely to perceive the operating room as a positive learning environment, view attendings as role models, and receive mentoring and feedback from residents and attendings (p = 0.03, 0.02, 0.01 respectively). 78% of residents thought the program was a positive experience and no residents found it burdensome.


      The Big Siblings program enhances the surgery clerkship learning environment. Students who engaged with their Big Sibling had a more positive view of the clerkship and the mentorship provided by residents and attendings.

      Graphical abstract



      Massachusetts General Hospital ((MGH))
      To read this article in full you will need to make a payment

      Purchase one-time access:

      Academic & Personal: 24 hour online accessCorporate R&D Professionals: 24 hour online access
      One-time access price info
      • For academic or personal research use, select 'Academic and Personal'
      • For corporate R&D use, select 'Corporate R&D Professionals'


      Subscribe to The American Journal of Surgery
      Already a print subscriber? Claim online access
      Already an online subscriber? Sign in
      Institutional Access: Sign in to ScienceDirect


        • Burney C.P.
        • Goldwag J.L.
        • Sorensen M.J.
        • Crockett A.O.
        Hopes, fears, and rumors: medical students and the general surgery clerkship.
        Am J Surg. 2021; 222: 687-691
        • McKinley S.K.
        • Kochis M.
        • Cooper C.M.
        • et al.
        Medical students' perceptions and motivations prior to their surgery clerkship.
        Am J Surg. 2019; 218: 424-429
        • Patel M.S.
        • Khalsa B.
        • Rama A.
        • et al.
        Early intervention to promote medical student interest in surgery and the surgical subspecialties.
        J Surg Educ. 2013; 70: 81-86
        • Kirkham J.C.
        • Widmann W.D.
        • Leddy D.
        • et al.
        Medical student entry into general surgery increases with early exposure to surgery and to surgeons.
        Curr Surg. 2006; 63: 397-400
        • Cochran A.
        • Paukert J.L.
        • Neumayer L.A.
        Does a general surgery clerkship influence student perceptions of surgeons and surgical careers?.
        Surgery. 2003; 134: 153-157
        • Whittaker L.D.
        • Estes N.C.
        • Ash J.
        • Meyer L.E.
        The value of resident teaching to improve student perceptions of surgery clerkships and surgical career choices.
        Am J Surg. 2006; 191: 320-324
        • Naylor R.A.
        • Reisch J.S.
        • Valentine R.J.
        Do student perceptions of surgeons change during medical school? A longitudinal analysis during a 4-year curriculum.
        J Am Coll Surg. 2010; 210: 527-532
        • De S.K.
        • Henke P.K.
        • Ailawadi G.
        • Dimick J.B.
        • Colletti L.M.
        Attending, house officer, and medical student perceptions about teaching in the third-year medical school general surgery clerkship.
        J Am Coll Surg. 2004; 199: 932-942
        • Nguyen S.Q.
        • Divino C.M.
        Surgical residents as medical student mentors.
        Am J Surg. 2007; 193: 90-93
        • Yu T.C.
        • Lemanu D.P.
        • Henning M.
        • Maccormick A.D.
        • Hawken S.J.
        • Hill A.G.
        General surgical interns contributing to the clerkship learning environment of medical students.
        Med Teach. 2013; 35: 639-647
        • Quillin R.C.
        • Pritts T.A.
        • Davis B.R.
        • et al.
        Surgeons underestimate their influence on medical students entering surgery.
        J Surg Res. 2012; 177: 201-206
        • Musunuru S.
        • Lewis B.
        • Rikkers L.F.
        • Chen H.
        Effective surgical residents strongly influence medical students to pursue surgical careers.
        J Am Coll Surg. 2007; 204: 164-167
        • Frei E.
        • Stamm M.
        • Buddeberg-Fischer B.
        Mentoring programs for medical students--a review of the PubMed literature 2000-2008.
        BMC Med Educ. 2010; 10: 32
        • Sobbing J.
        • Duong J.
        • Dong F.
        • Grainger D.
        Residents as medical student mentors during an obstetrics and gynecology clerkship.
        J Grad Med Educ. 2015; 7: 412-416
        • Farkas A.H.
        • Allenbaugh J.
        • Bonifacino E.
        • Turner R.
        • Corbelli J.A.
        Mentorship of US medical students: a systematic review.
        J Gen Intern Med. 2019; 34: 2602-2609
        • Kalén S.
        • Ponzer S.
        • Seeberger A.
        • Kiessling A.
        • Silén C.
        Longitudinal mentorship to support the development of medical students' future professional role: a qualitative study.
        BMC Med Educ. 2015; 15
        • Sanfey H.
        • Hollands C.
        • Gantt N.L.
        Strategies for building an effective mentoring relationship.
        Am J Surg. 2013; 206: 714-718
        • ElHawary H.
        • Salimi A.
        • Gorgy A.
        • Fesdekjian L.
        • Seal A.
        • Gilardino M.S.
        Medical student mentorship in surgery: lessons learnt and future directions.
        J Surg Educ. 2021;
        • McKinley S.K.
        • Cassidy D.J.
        • Mansur A.
        • et al.
        Identification of specific educational targets to improve the student surgical clerkship experience.
        J Surg Res. 2020; 254: 49-57
        • McKinley S.K.
        • Kochis M.
        • Cooper C.M.
        • et al.
        Medical students' perceptions and motivations prior to their surgery clerkship.
        Am J Surg. 2019; 218: 424-429
        • McKinley S.K.
        • Witt E.E.
        • Acker R.C.
        • et al.
        A multisite study of medical student perspectives on the core surgical clerkship.
        Surgery. 2022;
        • Harris P.A.
        • Taylor R.
        • Thielke R.
        • Payne J.
        • Gonzalez N.
        • Conde J.G.
        Research electronic data capture (REDCap)--a metadata-driven methodology and workflow process for providing translational research informatics support.
        J Biomed Inf. 2009; 42: 377-381
        • Stone J.P.
        • Charette J.H.
        • McPhalen D.F.
        • Temple-Oberle C.
        Under the knife: medical student perceptions of intimidation and mistreatment.
        J Surg Educ. 2015; 72: 749-753
        • Chapman S.J.
        • Hakeem A.R.
        • Marangoni G.
        • Raj Prasad K.
        How can we enhance undergraduate medical training in the operating room? A survey of student attitudes and opinions.
        J Surg Educ. 2013; 70: 326-333
        • Jensen R.D.
        • Seyer-Hansen M.
        • Cristancho S.M.
        • Christensen M.K.
        Being a surgeon or doing surgery? A qualitative study of learning in the operating room.
        Med Educ. 2018; 52: 861-876
        • Peel J.K.
        • Schlachta C.M.
        • Alkhamesi N.A.
        A systematic review of the factors affecting choice of surgery as a career.
        Canadian J Surgery J Canadien de chirurgie. 2018; 61: 58-67
        • McKinley S.K.
        • Sell N.M.
        • Saillant N.
        • et al.
        Enhancing the formal preclinical curriculum to improve medical student perception of surgery.
        J Surg Educ. 2020; 77: 788-798
        • McKinley S.K.
        • Cassidy D.J.
        • Sell N.M.
        • et al.
        A qualitative study of the perceived value of participation in a new Department of Surgery Research Residents as teachers program.
        Am J Surg. 2020; 220: 1194-1200
        • McKinley Skm J.T.
        • Phitayakorn R.
        Prepare students for their surgical residency interviews with a residency workshop.
        Am College Surgeons Resour Surg Educ Web site. 2019; (Accessed May 31, 2020)
        • Ellison E.C.
        • Pawlik T.M.
        • Way D.P.
        • Satiani B.
        • Williams T.E.
        Ten-year reassessment of the shortage of general surgeons: increases in graduation numbers of general surgery residents are insufficient to meet the future demand for general surgeons.
        Surgery. 2018; 164: 726-732