BACKGROUND There are some concerns that medical student interest in surgery is suffering. The aims of this project were to investigate the proportion of medical students interested in surgery from years 1 to 4, explore influential attitudinal and demographic factors, and establish baseline data to study the future effects of the Surgical Interest Association. METHODS Students were surveyed through an audience response system in year orientation sessions. For a majority of the analyses, respondents were dichotomized based on expressing an interest in surgery or not. RESULTS There were no significant differences in the interest students had for a surgical career between medical student year levels in a cross-sectional analysis. However, available longitudinal data demonstrated a significant decrease in surgical interest from first years in 2012 to second years in 2013. Lifestyle, working hours and training length concerns had minimal effects as career influences on students interested in surgery, whereas academic interest and career opportunities were motivating factors in choosing this career. CONCLUSION The results suggested no difference between levels of interest from first to final year students in surgery as a career, though only 22% of final year students were interested in surgery. This study also suggested that promoting the academic and scientific side of surgery, along with career opportunities available, may be an important avenue to encourage students into surgery. Future research will investigate the changing interests of students in surgery longitudinally throughout the medical school and to analyse the effects of the Surgical Interest Association.