Results of a national survey of surgical resident interest in international experience, electives, and volunteerism

J Am Coll Surg. 2009 Feb;208(2):304-12. doi: 10.1016/j.jamcollsurg.2008.10.025. Epub 2008 Dec 4.


Background: Data are emerging about the essential nature of sustainable global surgical care and interest among North American surgeons. Currently, there is no formal mechanism for US surgical residents to participate in international training opportunities. A small, single-institution survey found that general surgery residents at New York University are highly motivated to pursue international training. But little research has addressed the attitudes of North American residents about international training. The goal of this study was to acquire a broader understanding of surgical resident interest in international training.

Study design: A structured questionnaire was administered anonymously and voluntarily to all American College of Surgeons resident members.

Results: Seven hundred twenty-four residents completed surveys. Ninety-four percent of respondents planned careers in general surgery. Ninety-two percent of respondents were interested in an international elective, and 82% would prioritize the experience over all or some other electives. Fifty-four percent and 73% of respondents would be willing to use vacation and participate even if cases were not counted for graduation requirements, respectively. Educational indebtedness was high among respondents (50% of respondents carried >or=$100,000 debt). Despite debt, 85% of respondents plan to volunteer while in practice. The most frequent barriers identified by respondents were financial (61%) and logistic (66%).

Conclusions: American College of Surgeons resident members are highly motivated to acquire international training experience, with many planning to volunteer in the future. A consensus among stakeholders in North American surgical education is needed to further explore international training within surgical residency.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Clinical Competence*
  • Curriculum*
  • Female
  • General Surgery / education*
  • Humans
  • International Educational Exchange* / economics
  • Internship and Residency / statistics & numerical data*
  • Male
  • Medically Underserved Area
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States
  • Volunteers*
  • Young Adult