The seven attributes of the academic surgeon: Critical aspects of the archetype and contributions to the surgical community

Am J Surg. 2017 Aug;214(2):165-179. doi: 10.1016/j.amjsurg.2017.02.003. Epub 2017 Feb 20.


Background: "Academic surgeon" describes a member of a medical school department of surgery, but this term does not fully define the important role of such physician-scientists in advancing surgical science through translational research and innovation.

Methods: The curriculum vitae and self-descriptive vignettes of the records of achievement of seven surgeons possessing documented records of academic leadership, innovation, and dissemination of knowledge were reviewed.

Results: Out analysis yielded seven attributes of the archetypal academic surgeon: 1) identifies complex clinical problems ignored or thought unsolvable by others, 2) becomes an expert, 3) innovates to advance treatment, 4) observes outcomes to further improve and innovate, 5) disseminates knowledge and expertise, 6) asks important questions to further improve care, and 7) trains the next generation of surgeons and scientists.

Conclusion: Although alternative pathways to innovation and academic contribution also exist, the academic surgeon typically devotes years of careful observation, analysis, and iterative investigation to identify and solve challenging or unexplored clinical problems, ideally leverages resources available in academic medical centers to support these endeavors.

Keywords: Academic surgery; Innovation; Leadership; Research.

MeSH terms

  • Faculty, Medical*
  • Specialties, Surgical* / education
  • Translational Research, Biomedical*
  • United States