Advanced GI Surgery Training—a Roadmap for the Future: the White Paper from the SSAT Task Force on Advanced GI Surgery Training

Matthew M. Hutter*, Kevin E. Behrns, Nathaniel J. Soper, Fabrizio Michelassi, On behalf of the SSAT Task Force on Advanced GI Surgery Training

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


There is the need for well-trained advanced GI surgeons. The super specialization seen in academic and large community centers may not be applicable for surgeons practicing in other settings. The pendulum that has been swinging toward narrow specialization is swinging the other way, as many trained subspecialists are having a harder time finding positions after fellowship, and if they do find a position, the majority of their practice can actually be advanced GI surgery and not exclusively their area of focused expertise. Many hospitals/practices desire surgeons who are competent and specifically credentialed to perform a variety of advanced GI procedures from the esophagus through the anus. Furthermore, broader exposure in training may provide complementary and overlapping skills that may lead to an even better trained GI surgeon compared to someone whose experience is limited to just the liver and pancreas, or to just the colon and rectum, or to only bariatric and foregut surgery. With work hour restrictions and limitations on autonomy for current trainees in residency, many senior trainees have not developed the skills and knowledge to allow them to be competent and comfortable in the broad range of GI surgery. Such training should reflect the needs of the patients and their diseases, and reflect what many practicing surgeons are currently doing, and what many trainees say they would like to do, if there were such fellowship pathways available to them. The goal is to train advanced GI surgeons who are competent and proficient to operate throughout the GI tract and abdomen with open, laparoscopic, and endoscopic techniques in acute and elective situations in a broad variety of complex GI diseases. The program may be standalone, or prepare a surgeon for additional subspecialty training (transition to fellowship and/or to practice). This group of surgeons should be distinguished from subspecialist surgeons who focus in a narrow area of GI surgery. Advanced GI surgery training could occupy the area between general surgery residency and further subspecialty training as seen in the graph below. Visually, we are trying to define the red hash mark area. This is challenging as the inner border with core general surgery is ill defined and interpreted differently by various stakeholders. Similarly, the outer border of the red hash marks, which defines areas that require a surgical subspecialist, is also not clear. Inevitably, overlap exists in the care of these patients and is influenced by the complexity of the underlying disease presentations. The concept is noble, but the future is unclear. Challenges and uncertainties include whether the Certificate of Focused Expertise will go forward, and what the RRC and ABS might decide on the structure of General Surgery training. Funding and the ability to offer autonomy during training are additional challenges in today’s training environment. Currently, the ABS is considering a “Core Plus” concept, though what is “the Core” and what is the “Plus” are not yet determined, and these concepts have been promoted for years. Whether training becomes 4 +1, or 4 +1+1, 5+1 or some other model continues to be discussed. We, the Task Force of Advanced GI Surgery Training, have drafted a vision of what advanced GI training could/should look like to help guide the ABMS/ABS/RRC/ACGME as they contemplate surgery residency redesign goals. Despite the uncertainty, we will develop the curriculum, milestones, and case requirements for advanced GI surgery training, to not only provide this vision but so that an advanced GI training program is ready to go, to be plugged in to whatever the future structure for surgical training may be.[Figure not available: see fulltext.]

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)755-760
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Gastrointestinal Surgery
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2017


  • Fellowship
  • Fellowship council
  • Gastrointestinal
  • Surgery
  • Training

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Gastroenterology

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