Three Wishes Survey

Are medical students becoming less altruistic and more money-oriented? A three wishes survey

Author: Anna I. Perera MSc1, Anna Serlachius PhD1, Roger J. Booth PhD2 & Keith J. Petrie PhD1

Author Affiliations:

1Department of Psychological Medicine, University of Auckland, NZ

2Department of Molecular Medicine and Pathology, University of Auckland, NZ

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Corresponding Author: Anna I. Perera,

Key Words: undergraduate, motivations, altruism, money, specialization



In this study we assessed the underlying values and goals of current medical students by examining personal wishes. The authors also aimed to determine the impact of the increased financial burden of medical training on students‟ motivations by comparing current wishes to those of students from 1999. We also examined the relationships between types of wishes, choice of future medical specialty, and demographic characteristics.


An anonymous survey with the question: “If you had three wishes, what would you wish for?”, and items pertaining to specialization choice and demographics was completed by 418 medical students. Wishes were coded into seventeen categories. Results were compared to a previous survey conducted in 1999.


The largest category of wishes was altruism (40% of students) followed by achievement (36%), and money (34%). Significantly more medical students in 2015 had altruistic and achievement wishes compared to 1999. However, there was no significant increase in money-related wishes in the 2015 cohort compared to students from 1999. Final year students were more likely to report power-related wishes and male medical students had significantly more wishes related to power, money, and self-esteem. Students who aspired to be surgeons had more affiliation wishes and fewer knowledge-related aspirations. Conversely, medical students planning to enter internal medicine training were more likely to have wishes related to power and self-esteem. Achievement wishes were more common among individuals wanting to enter family medicine.


There was no evidence that medical students are becoming less altruistic and more money-orientated. Further, individuals did not appear to become less altruistic or increasingly financially driven as they progressed through the medical course.

Published on date: September, 2017

DOI: 10.15404/msrj/09.2017.0145

Citation: Perera, A., Serlachius, A., Booth, R., & Petrie K. Are Medical Students becoming Less Altruistic and More Money-Oriented? A Three Wishes Study, Medical Student Research Journal (2015). doi:10.15404/msrj/09.2017.0145


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