A young surgeon's perspective on alternate surgical training pathways

Research output: Contribution to journalShort surveypeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Most residents in training today are in focused on their training, and the thoughts of changing the structure of residencies and fellowships is something that they are ambivalent about or have never heard anything about. The small minority who are vocal on these issues represent an activist group supporting change. This group is very vocal and raises many of the excellent questions we have examined. In discussion with residents, some feel that shortened training will help with the financial issues facing residents. However, many people today add additional years to their training with research years or "super" fellowships. The residents demonstrate that they want to get the skill sets that they desire despite the added length of training. This is unlikely to change even if the minimum number of years of training changes with the evolution of tracked training programs. Medical students, in the Resident and Associate Society of the American College of Surgeons survey, did not indicate that shortened training would have an affect on decision to pursue or not pursue a surgical career. If the focus of these changes is to encourage medical students to pursue a residency in surgical specialties, we may need to look at other options to increase medical student interest. Medical students indicated that lifestyle issues, types of clinical problems, stress-related concerns, and interactions with the surgical faculty were far more important in their decision to enter a surgical specialty than work hours or duration of training. If we are to make a difference in the quality and quantity of applicants for surgical residencies, then changes in the structure of residencies do not seem to be the most effective way to accomplish this. We should possibly focus more on faculty and medical student interaction and the development of positive role models for medical students to see surgeons with attractive practices that minimize some of the traditionally perceived negative stereotypes. Residents in general surgery training programs often do not make decisions on the type of fellowship that they will pursue until late in their residency. Many residents are apprehensive about these types of tracked training programs because it will accelerate the time-line for choosing a track. Changes in the structure of residency and fellowships would result in residents having to decide and "match" in their second or third postgraduate years of training instead of the fourth or fifth postgraduate year time frame. Many residents will not have been exposed to all of the types of tracks by their third postgraduate year and many voice concerns over being ready to make this decision that early in their training. Acceptance and enthusiasm about this concept among all residents will likely depend on the final version of any planned changes. A wholesale rewrite of surgical training in the United States would likely not be well received. However, the addition of alternate pathways, on a limited scale and under close scrutiny and supervision, could evaluate interest and ease into this type of program. Before embarking on massive changes in surgical training, scientific, statistically valid research determining the interest of residents in these types of programs will target changes to make these programs successful.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)114-119
Number of pages6
JournalAmerican Surgeon
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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