Background: Approximately 1,000 individuals complete graduate surgical education in general surgery each year. Their subsequent career pathways have not been described but may have relevance to the supply of general surgeons available to provide a broad range of surgical care to the population of the USA.
Study design: Data for this study were obtained from the American College of Surgeons's Surgery Resident Masterfile, developed for the annual Longitudinal Study of Surgery Residents, and the American Board of Medical Specialties's Official Directory of Board Certified Medical Specialists. For verification purposes, the American Medical Association's Physician Masterfile and the American Board of Surgery's certified database were searched. Yearly analyses of certified general surgery graduates from 1983 to 1990 were conducted, and rates of certification between US or Canadian medical school graduates and international medical school graduates (IMG) were compared.
Results: Ten to 18 years after completion of a residency program in general surgery, 93.6% of graduates had been certified in general surgery or by another American Board of Medical Specialties board. A total of 43.7% of the 8,068 graduates were certified, in addition, in a general surgery-based specialty. Overall, evidence of certification was not available for 6.4% of graduates. The certification rate for US or Canadian graduates was 95.8% of general surgeons and increased for IMG surgeons from 69.4% for 1983 graduates to 94.7% for 1990 graduates. The number of IMGs in general surgery residency programs declined from 19.7% of 1983 graduates to 7.8% of 1990 graduates. The rates of American Board of Surgery certification are 96.1% for male and 93.6% for female US or Canadian graduates; 79.2% of male IMG graduates and 83.7% of female IMG graduates became certified.
Conclusions: Most surgeons who completed a general surgery residency program from 1983 to 1990 are certified and presumably have met high standards for knowledge and experience. More than half of the graduates specialize further.