Background: For nearly two decades, interest in general surgery has been declining among U.S. medical school graduates. Many factors appear to be important in a medical student's choice of a surgical residency and career. We hypothesized that previous exposure to family members who are surgeons would significantly influence a student's decision to pursue a career in surgery. Methods: Since 2001, nearly 600 third-year medical students completing the general surgery clerkship were issued a pre- and post-clerkship survey. Responses were collected, retrospectively analyzed, and correlated to the 2001-2007 National Residency Matching Program match results. Results: The response rate of students completing both surveys was 87% (n = 510). Based on a numeric scale, surgical progeny (SP) indicated a significantly higher likelihood than nonsurgical progeny (NSP) of pursing a surgical career/residency in the pre-clerkship period (SP mean, 5.1 ± 0.42; NSP mean, 3.7 ± 0.11; P = 0.0005). Post-clerkship, SPs noted no more enjoyment from the surgical clerkship than NSPs (SP mean, 7.2 ± 0.25; NSP mean, 6.9 ± 0.96; P = 0.91); furthermore, there was no difference in the percentage of students pursuing a surgical residency (categorical or surgical subspecialty) in the National Residency Matching Program match (SP, 12.5%; NSP, 12.7%; P = 1.00). Conclusion: These data suggest that previous exposure to a surgeon within the family positively influences a medical student's pre-clerkship interest in pursuing a surgical career. However, this interest is not sustained; SPs and NSPs match into surgical residencies at equivalent rates. Clearly, further studies are needed to identify the factors responsible for this phenomenon. © 2008 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.