A decade of change: Training and career paths of cardiothoracic surgery residents 2003 to 2014

Elizabeth H. Stephens, David Odell, William Stein, Damien J. LaPar, Walter F. DeNino, Muhammad Aftab, Kathleen Berfield, Amanda L. Eilers, Shawn Groth, John F. Lazar, Michael P. Robich, Asad A. Shah, Danielle A. Smith, Cameron Stock, Vakhtang Tchantchaleishvili, Carlos M. Mery, Joseph W. Turek, Jorge Salazar, Tom C. Nguyen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Background During the past decade, cardiothoracic surgery (CTS) education has undergone tremendous change with the advent of new technologies and the implementation of integrated programs, to name a few. The goal of this study was to assess how residents' career paths, training, and perceptions changed during this period. Methods The 2006 to 2014 surveys accompanying the Thoracic Surgery Residents Association/Thoracic Surgery Directors' Association in-training examination taken by CTS residents were analyzed, along with a 2003 survey of graduating CTS residents. Of 2,563 residents surveyed, 2,434 (95%) responded. Results During the decade, fewer residents were interested in mixed adult cardiac/thoracic practice (20% in 2014 vs 52% in 2003, p = 0.004), more planned on additional training (10% in 2003 vs 41% to 47% from 2011 to 2014), and the frequent use of simulation increased from 1% in 2009 to 24% in 2012 (p < 0.001). More residents recommended CTS to potential trainees (79% in 2014 vs 65% in 2010, p = 0.007). Job offers increased from a low of 12% in 2008 with three or more offers to 34% in 2014. Debt increased from 0% with more than $200,000 in 2003 to 40% in 2013 (p < 0.001). Compared with residents in traditional programs, more integrated residents in 2014 were interested in adult cardiac surgery (53% vs 31%) and congenital surgery (22% vs 7%), fewer were interested in general thoracic surgery (5% vs 31%, p < 0.001), and more planned on additional training (66% vs 36%, p < 0.001). Conclusions With the evolution in CTS over the last decade, residents' training and career paths have changed substantially, with increased specialization and simulation accompanied by increased resident satisfaction and an improved job market.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1305-1314
Number of pages10
JournalAnnals of Thoracic Surgery
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine

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