Dedicated Research Time During Surgery Residency Leads to a Significant Decline In Self-Assessed Clinical Aptitude and Surgical Skills

Monica M. Grova*, Anthony D. Yang, Misty D. Humphries, Joseph M. Galante, Edgardo S. Salcedo

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Objective The surgical community commonly perceives a decline in surgical and patient care skills among residents who take dedicated time away from clinical activity to engage in research. We hypothesize that residents perceive a decline in their skills because of dedicated research time. Setting UC Davis Medical Center, Sacramento, CA, an institutional tertiary care center. Participants General surgery residents and graduates from UC Davis general surgery residency training program, who had completed at least 1 year of research during their training. A total of 35 people were asked to complete the survey, and 19 people submitted a completed survey. Design Participants were invited to complete an online survey. Factors associated with the decline in skills following their research years were examined. All statistical analyses were performed with IBM SPSS Statistics software. Results A total of 19 current or former general surgery residents responded to the survey (54% response rate). Overall, 42% described their research as “basic science.” Thirteen residents (68%) dedicated 1 year to research, while the remainder spent 2 or more years. Basic science researchers were significantly more likely to report a decrease in clinical judgment (75% vs. 22%, p = 0.013) as well as a decrease in patient care skills (63% vs. 0%, p = 0.002). Residents who dedicated at least 2 years to research were more likely to perceive a decline in overall aptitude and surgical skills (100% vs. 46%, p = 0.02), and a decline in patient care skills (67% vs. 8%, p = 0.007). Conclusions Most residents who dedicate time for research perceive a decline in their overall clinical aptitude and surgical skills. This can have a dramatic effect on the confidence of these residents in caring for patients and leading a care team once they re-enter clinical training. Residents who engaged in 2 or more years of research were significantly more likely to perceive these problems. Further research should determine how to keep residents who are interested in academics from losing ground clinically while they are pursuing research training.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)980-985
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Surgical Education
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2017


  • clinical skills
  • decline in surgical skills
  • research resident
  • surgery residency
  • surgical aptitude
  • surgical education

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Education


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