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Psychiatry as a specialization: influential factors and gender differences among medical students in a low- to middle-income country

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  04 September 2019

V. I. O. Agyapong*
Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, Canada
R. Owusu-Antwi
Department of Behavioural Sciences, College of Health Sciences, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, Ghana
A. Ritchie
Saint James School of MedicineAnguilla, Park Ridge, IL, USA
G. Agyapong-Opoku
Tempo School, Edmonton, AB, Canada
H. Khinda
Department of Physiology, Faculty of Science, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, Canada
M. Hrabok
Cumming School of Medicine, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB, Canada
S. Ohene
Department of Psychiatry, University of Ghana Medical School, Accra, Ghana
T. Ulzen
Department of Psychiatry, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL, USA
A. Osei
Ghana Mental Health Authority, Accra, Ghana
*Address for correspondence: V. I. O. Agyapong, MD, Ph.D., FRCPC, Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Alberta, 1E1 Walter Mackenzie Health Sciences Centre (WMC) 8440 112 St NW, Edmonton, AB T6G 2B7, Canada. (Email:



To assess the perception of Ghanaian medical students about factors influencing their career interest in psychiatry and to explore gender differences in these perceptions.


This is a cross-sectional quantitative survey of 5th and 6th year medical students in four public medical schools in Ghana. Data were analyzed with descriptive and inferential statistics using SPSS version 20.


Responses were obtained from 545 medical students (response rate of 52%). Significantly, more male medical students expressed that stigma is an important consideration for them to choose or not to choose a career in psychiatry compared to their female counterparts (42.7% v. 29.7%, respectively). Over two-thirds of the medical students perceived that psychiatrists were at risk of being attacked by their patients, with just a little over a third expressing that risk was an important consideration for them to choose a career in psychiatry. There were no gender differences regarding perceptions about risk. Around 3 to 4 out of 10 medical students will consider careers in psychiatry if offered various incentives with no gender differences in responses provided.


Our study presents important and novel findings in the Ghanaian context, which can assist health policy planners and medical training institutions in Ghana to formulate policies and programs that will increase the number of psychiatry residents and thereby increase the psychiatrist-to-patient ratio in Ghana.

Short Report
© College of Psychiatrists of Ireland 2019

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