Background. A comprehensive exposure to general surgery is essential for medical students pursuing careers in surgery. Occasionally, students applying for surgical residency positions must choose a subspecialty field prior to starting their residency training. Often, this decision is heavily based on their experience on various surgical clerkships. Materials and methods. To determine if surgical clerkships influence subspecialty choice, we surveyed medical students who interviewed for general surgery training over a 2-year period at The Johns Hopkins Hospital. Results. Of 211 surveys sent, 146 were returned (66%). The mean age of the students was 26 ± 0 years with 21% being female. Students anticipating subspecialization in cardiothoracic, plastic, pediatric, and transplant surgery saw significantly more operations in their respective fields. Similar trends were seen in vascular surgery and surgical oncology. Despite the apparent differences in exposure to subspecialty operations, all students saw equal numbers of hernia repairs and laparoscopic cholecystectomies. Conclusions. While medical students pursuing careers in surgery have equal exposure to general surgery, their anticipated subspecialty field highly correlated with their operative exposure to that field. Thus, medical school surgical rotations appear to highly influence subspecialty choice. © 2001 Academic Press.