The rates of women and underrepresented racial and ethnic minority (UREM) students successfully matching into neurosurgical residency are extremely low and do not reflect the makeup of the general population. As of 2019, only 17.5% of neurosurgical residents in the United States were women, 4.95% were Black or African American, and 7.2% were Hispanic or Latinx. Earlier recruitment of UREM students will help to diversify the neurosurgical workforce. Therefore, the authors developed a virtual educational event for undergraduate students entitled "Future Leaders in Neurosurgery Symposium for Underrepresented Students’’ (FLNSUS). The primary objectives of the FLNSUS were to expose attendees to 1) neurosurgeons from diverse gender, racial, and ethnic backgrounds; 2) neurosurgical research; 3) opportunities for neurosurgical mentorship; and 4) information about life as a neurosurgeon. The authors hypothesized that the FLNSUS would increase student self-confidence, provide exposure to the specialty, and reduce perceived barriers to a neurosurgical career.
To measure the change in participant perceptions of neurosurgery, pre- and postsymposium surveys were administered to attendees. Of the 269 participants who completed the presymposium survey, 250 participated in the virtual event and 124 completed the postsymposium survey. Paired pre- and postsurvey responses were used for analysis, yielding a response rate of 46%. To assess the impact of participant perceptions of neurosurgery as a field, pre- and postsurvey responses to questions were compared. The change in response was analyzed, and a nonparametric sign test was performed to check for significant differences.
According to the sign test, applicants showed increased familiarity with the field (p < 0.001), increased confidence in their abilities to become neurosurgeons (p = 0.014), and increased exposure to neurosurgeons from diverse gender, racial, and ethnic backgrounds (p < 0.001 for all categories).
These results reflect a significant improvement in student perceptions of neurosurgery and suggest that symposiums like the FLNSUS may promote further diversification of the field. The authors anticipate that events promoting diversity in neurosurgery will lead to a more equitable workforce that will ultimately translate to enhanced research productivity, cultural humility, and patient-centered care in neurosurgery.