Please email Patsy Loston-Williams to schedule a meeting. firstname.lastname@example.org
About the Specialty
General surgery is a discipline requiring the preoperative, operative, and postoperative management of patients with a broad spectrum of diseases and conditions (e.g., alimentary tract, abdomen and its contents, breast, skin and soft tissue, endocrine system, surgical critical care, surgical oncology, and trauma), including those requiring nonoperative, elective, or emergency surgical treatment. Surgical management requires skill in complex decision making; general surgeons should be competent in diagnosis as well as treatment and management, including operative intervention. The general surgeon should have knowledge and experience in anatomy, physiology, epidemiology, immunology, and pathology. – Adapted from The American Board of Surgery
Answers to Common Questions
- Attributes of a Competitive Student
What factors typically make a student competitive for this specialty?
A strong academic record (GPA, class rank), especially USMLE step I and II scores are most important. Students should strive for selection to AOA, but this is not a requirement. Strong letters of recommendation from surgeons. Demonstrated interest through clinical experience, shadowing, and achievement in research. Leadership roles in organizations or extracurricular activities, with significant, demonstrable achievements are also helpful.
How important is research experience in your specialty? If important, does it need to be in the specialty itself?
Research is important. It allows the student to gain in-depth exposure to the specialty, develop a mentor-mentee relationship, and demonstrates the student’s interest in answering questions through investigation. While it is not required to conduct research within the Department, it is strongly recommended.
How can students identify opportunities for shadowing?
Contact the Surgery Clerkship Director or individual faculty within a specialty that interests the student.
The specialty group for surgery is the Wilson Society. The group holds regular events (typically on a monthly basis). Students should attend one of these events and sign up for the mailing list. Beyond this, students should contact the Surgery Clerkship Director to discuss their individual interests and opportunities within the Department.
What electives would you recommend to a student who is interested in pursuing your specialty?
During the clerkship year, students should consider taking a two week exploratory elective in their specialty of interest. Once the surgery clerkship is completed, students can consider taking a month long advanced elective in any of the general surgery specialty areas. Students have particularly enjoyed the clinical experience on Trauma/EGS, Burns, SICU, Surgical Oncology, and Surgical Oncology.
Based on your experience, what tips do you have for students to shine on your electives?
The student should be highly engaged in their education. Showing interest in patient care, actively volunteering to assist with clinical care matters, being interested and eager to be involved, asking questions to expand your understanding go along way. The student should be well prepared for operative cases, having reviewed the patient’s history, relevant anatomy, pathophysiology of the disease, therapeutic options (including role for surgery), and be prepared to ask and answer questions. Students should seek out opportunities to present patients on rounds and in clinics.
- Away Rotations
Does your specialty recommend doing away rotations?
The need for an away rotation is highly dependent on the individual applicant and the strength of his/her academic record, preferences for residency training, and overall competitiveness for the MATCH. This needs to be decided on an individual basis. It is not a blanket requirement for all applicants.
If your specialty recommends doing away rotations, how many “aways” do you recommend?
The number of away rotations depends on the overall competitiveness of the student’s application and space to accommodate away rotations in the fourth year schedule. Students have typically taken one to three away rotations.
If away rotations are necessary, when should they apply and when should they be completed?
When considering an away rotation, it is best to start investigating opportunities early. It is recommended to begin researching programs and requirements as early as February the year in which the student will be applying through the MATCH. The student can contact individual programs about their requirements for submission of an away rotation request. It is best to get started early, before potential slots fill up. Also, a student may need to apply to more than one program to secure an away rotation. It is a competitive application process.
- Interview Timing
Which month do you recommend taking off to interview?
November and December are peak months, with some institutions interviewing into January.
- Letters of Recommendation
How many letters of recommendation are needed to apply to your specialty?
Three (Chairman’s letter plus two surgery faculty letters).
Does your specialty recommend that all letters of recommendation be written by members of your specialty?
It is highly recommended to obtain letters of recommendation from surgeons. The exception to this is if a student has a longstanding mentor in another specialty who is able to further elaborate on the strengths of the candidate. In some instances, it may be advised to use this as a fourth letter of reference.
If letters can come from other disciplines, do you have a recommendation as to which disciplines are more highly valued?
Any discipline, but it depends on the strength of the relationship of the mentor in that discipline to the student applicant. This needs to be individualized.
Does the academic rank of the letter writer matter?
It can be helpful to obtain letters of recommendation from faculty with a national or international reputation. It is still most important that the referee know the student well, since this will be reflected in the letter of recommendation. A strong letter from a faculty member who knows the student well will be viewed more positively than a weak letter from someone with a national/international reputation who was selected to write a letter solely on this basis.
Does your specialty require a letter from the chairman?
Yes. The Surgery Education Office will assist students with obtaining this letter. The students should contact the Education Coordinator or Clerkship Director.
- American College of Surgeons Online Guide to Choosing a Surgical Residency
- American College of Surgeons Guide So You Want to Be a Surgeon
- American College of Surgeons