Objective(S): High surgical complexity and individual career goals has led most general surgery (GS) residents to pursue fellowship training, resulting in a shortage of surgeons who practice broad-based general surgery. We hypothesize that early tracking of residents would improve operative experience of residents planning to be general surgeons, and could foster greater interest and confidence in this career path. Methods: Surgical Operative Log data from GS and fellowship bound residents (FB) applying for the 2008 American Board of Surgery Qualifying Examination (QE) were used to construct a hypothetical training model with 6 months of early specialization (ESP) for FB residents in 4 specialties (cardiac, vascular, colorectal, pediatric); and presumed these cases would be available to GS residents within the same program. Results: A total of 142 training programs had both FB residents (n = 237) and GS residents (n = 402), and represented 70% of all 2008 QE applicants. The mean numbers of operations by FB and GS residents were 1131 and 1091, respectively. There were a mean of 252 cases by FB residents in the chief year, theoretically making 126 cases available for each GS resident. In 9 defined categories, the hypothetical model would result in an increase in the 5-year operative experience of GS residents (mastectomy 6.5%; colectomy 22.8%; gastrectomy 23.4%; antireflux procedures 23.4%; pancreatic resection 37.4%; liver resection 29.3%; endocrine procedures 19.6%; trauma operations 13.3%; GI endoscopy 6.5%). Conclusions: The ESP model improves operative experience of GS residents, particularly for complex gastrointestinal procedures. The expansion of subspecialty ESP should be considered.
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