Feast or famine? The variable impact of coexisting fellowships on general surgery resident operative volumes

Ann Surg. 2011 Sep;254(3):476-83; discussion 483-5. doi: 10.1097/SLA.0b013e31822aa4d5.


Objectives: Nearly 80% of general surgery residents (GSR) pursue Fellowship training. We hypothesized that fellowships coexisting with general surgery residencies do not negatively impact GSR case volumes and that fellowship-bound residents (FBR) preferentially seek out cases in their chosen specialty ("early tracking").

Methods: To test our hypotheses, we analyzed the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education Surgical Operative Log data from 2009 American Board of Surgery qualifying examination applicants (N = 976). General surgery programs coexisted with 35 colorectal (CR), 97 vascular (Vasc), 80 minimally invasive (MIS), and 12 Endocrine (Endo) fellowships. We analyzed (1) operative cases for general surgery residency programs with and without coexisting Fellowships, comparing caseloads for FBR and all GSR and (2) operative cases of FBR in their chosen specialties compared to all other GSR. Group means were compared using ANOVA with significance set at P < 0.01.

Results: Coexisting fellowships had minimal impact on GSR caseloads. Endocrine fellowships actually enhanced case volumes for all residents. CR impact was neutral while MIS and vascular fellowships resulted in small declines. Endo, CR, and Vasc but not MIS FBR performed significantly more cases in their future specialties than their GSR counterparts, consistent with self-directed, prefellowship tracking. Tracking seems to be additive and FBR do not sacrifice other GSR cases.

Conclusions: Our data establish that the impact of Fellowships on GSR caseloads is minimal. Our data confirm that FBR seek out cases in their future specialties ("early tracking").

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Accreditation
  • Algorithms
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Fellowships and Scholarships*
  • General Surgery / education*
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency*
  • Surgical Procedures, Operative / education*
  • Surgical Procedures, Operative / statistics & numerical data
  • Virginia
  • Workload*