The Road to Surgery

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General surgery is defined by the American Board of Surgery as “a discipline that requires knowledge of and familiarity with a broad spectrum of diseases that may require surgical treatment.” Because it is of an all-encompassing nature, general surgery requires that surgeons have a vast knowledge of the body’s systems, ailments, and the surgical techniques that will correct them. We’ve researched general surgery residency at some of the most prestigious schools of medicine in the country. Here’s a look at what it takes to become a general surgeon in the United States today.

  • Training
    • Five years of “progressive residency” training after completing medical school (M.D. or D.O.). These progressive residency training years are known as PGY1-5 (post-graduate years one through five).
    • Students are taught hands-on surgical skills, evaluation of patients, and pre- and post-operative case management.
      • First year residents at Stanford School of Medicine act as members of surgical teams and begin to perform minor procedures like biopsies and appendectomies
      • Junior residents at Stanford School of Medicine are expected to participate in 100-300 cases per year. Chief Residents will have performed more than 1,000 procedures after five years of training, though the American Board of Surgery only requires a minimum of 750 procedures after five years (including 150 of those in the final “chief residency” year).
  • Some surgery training programs offer 1-3 years for research experience or professional development.
  • In order to be certified by the American Board of Surgery, prospective surgeons must complete a 12-month period of “chief residency,” during which they are responsible for independent decision-making and amassing major operative experience.
  • Prospective surgeons will take the American Board of Surgery examination after their fifth year of residency.
  • Students can apply for advanced training in a clinical subspecialty (endocrine, cardiothoracic, pediatric, reconstructive/plastic, etc.) after focusing on general surgery education.
  • Career Information & Outlook
    • The mean annual wage for surgeons, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, was $230,540 (as of May 2012).
    • The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in 2012 that the 10-year growth rate for jobs in general surgery was 18%. This is faster than the average projected growth rate for all occupations, which stood at 11% in 2012.