Training a new generation of breast surgeons: are we succeeding?

Ann Surg Oncol. 2012 Jun;19(6):1856-61. doi: 10.1245/s10434-011-2164-7. Epub 2012 Jan 5.


Background: Society of Surgical Oncology (SSO)-approved fellowships in Breast Oncology began training fellows in 2004. Here we ascertain methods of evaluating and improving the fellowship experience through fellowship alumni experience.

Methods: We conducted an electronic survey of fellowship graduates to learn perceived successes and weaknesses of their fellowship training, as well as their current practice experiences. Our electronic survey focused on their preparedness for practice, their job opportunities, and their use of image-guided biopsies in practice.

Results: Between 2005 and 2009, 142 fellows graduated and received our survey; 85 (60%) responded. Although 98% of graduates though that they were well prepared by their fellowship for performing breast cancer surgery, fewer thought that they were well prepared to perform oncoplastic techniques (53%), ultrasound (39%), and ultrasound-guided biopsies (28%). Nevertheless, many acquired additional training, and 63% were performing ultrasound-guided biopsies in practice. The majority (76%) were performing breast surgery exclusively, with 14% identifying themselves as director of a breast center and only 29% describing themselves as being in private practice-the rest being employed at a hospital or university. Only 8% of respondents were disappointed with the job market, and 67% stated they had received at least three job offers; 82% were satisfied in their current job.

Conclusions: SSO breast oncology fellowships appear to be training confident, well-prepared graduates with good job outlooks, and many are achieving leadership positions. Deficiencies in sonography training, some advanced surgical techniques, and administrative experiences should be addressed by program directors as graduates do perceive the need for such training.

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Breast Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Clinical Competence*
  • Education, Medical, Graduate*
  • Employment
  • Fellowships and Scholarships*
  • Female
  • General Surgery / education*
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency*
  • Job Satisfaction
  • Personal Satisfaction
  • Surveys and Questionnaires