Prevalence and cost of full-time research fellowships during general surgery residency: a national survey

Ann Surg. 2009 Jan;249(1):155-61. doi: 10.1097/SLA.0b013e3181929216.


Objective: To quantify the prevalence, outcomes, and cost of surgical resident research.

Summary background data: General surgery is unique among graduate medical education programs because a large percentage of residents interrupt their clinical training to spend 1 to 3 years performing full-time research. No comprehensive data exists on the scope of this practice.

Methods: Survey sent to all 239 program directors of general surgery residencies participating in the National Resident Matching Program.

Results: Response rate was 200 of 239 (84%). A total of 381 of 1052 trainees (36%) interrupt residency to pursue full-time research. The mean research fellowship length is 1.7 years, with 72% of trainees performing basic science research. A significant association was found between fellowship length and postresidency activity, with a 14.7% increase in clinical fellowship training and a 15.2% decrease in private practice positions for each year of full-time research (P < 0.0001). Program directors at 31% of programs reported increased clinical duties for research fellows as a result of Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education work hour regulations for clinical residents, whereas a further 10% of programs are currently considering such changes. It costs $41.5 million to pay the 634 trainees who perform research fellowships each year, the majority of which is paid for by departmental funds (40%) and institutional training grants (24%).

Conclusions: Interrupting residency to perform a research fellowship is a common and costly practice among general surgery residents. Although performing a research fellowship is associated with clinical fellowship training after residency, it is unclear to what extent this practice leads to the development of surgical investigators after postgraduate training.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Biomedical Research / economics*
  • Biomedical Research / statistics & numerical data*
  • Costs and Cost Analysis
  • Data Collection
  • Fellowships and Scholarships / economics*
  • Fellowships and Scholarships / statistics & numerical data*
  • General Surgery / education*
  • Internship and Residency*
  • United States