Are General Surgery Residencies Preparing Graduates for the Practice of Today's General Surgeon? An Analysis of American Board of Surgery Data From Applicants and Re-certifying Surgeons

Ann Surg. 2023 Jan 1;277(1):e197-e203. doi: 10.1097/SLA.0000000000004957. Epub 2021 Jun 2.


Objective: To compare the operative experience of general surgery residents and practicing general surgeons.

Summary of background data: The scope of general surgery has evolved, yet it remains unknown whether residents are being exposed to the right mix of operations during residency.

Methods: A retrospective review of operative case logs submitted to the American Board of Surgery by US general surgery graduates and practicing general surgeons from 2013 to 2017 was performed. The operative experience of both cohorts was calculated as a proportion of total experience and ranked by frequency. The proportional experience between cohorts was analyzed using factorial analysis of variance.

Results: During the 5-year period, 5482 graduates applied for initial American Board of Surgery certification, and 4152 diplomates applied for recertification. Among all operative domains, the graduate experience was similar to that of diplomates in 6 of 12 areas (abdomen, alimentary tract, endoscopy, endocrine, other, skin/soft tissue; all P > 0.05). Residents have a greater experience in subspecialty areas (pediatric, thoracic, trauma, vascular, and plastic) at the expense of fewer breast procedures (all P < 0.05). The 30 operations most commonly performed by graduates comprised 67% of their total operative experience. Among these, residents performed 25 cases ≥10 times, 14 cases ≥20 times, and 7 cases ≥40 times.

Conclusions: The operative experience of graduating US general surgery residents is largely similar to that of practicing general surgeons, particularly for core general surgery domains. These data offer reassurance that surgical training in the modern era appropriately exposes residents to the operations they may perform in practice.

MeSH terms

  • Certification
  • Child
  • Clinical Competence
  • Education, Medical, Graduate
  • General Surgery* / education
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Surgeons*
  • United States