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Surg Today. 2014 Apr;44(4):601-6. doi: 10.1007/s00595-013-0613-6. Epub 2013 May 28.

Mid-career changes in the occupation or specialty among general surgeons, from youth to middle age, have accelerated the shortage of general surgeons in Japan.

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Department of Surgery, The Institute of Medical Science, The University of Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan.



Concerns have been raised regarding an apparent shortage of general surgeons in Japan, but the actual situation is actually not altogether clear. To clarify the trends in the number of general surgeons in Japan, we studied the number of doctors by specialty over time.


This study investigated the covered trends in the number of doctors over time, a comparison of work formats (employment in hospitals versus clinics), and the trends in the ratio of female doctors. We used data from the Survey of Doctors, Dentists and Pharmacists from 1996, 1998, 2000, 2002, 2004, and 2006.


Between 1994 and 2006, the number of general surgeons fell by 12.7%, from 24,718 to 21,574. More than 20% of the general surgeons, aged 25 to 54 years old, either changed jobs or changed specialties between 1996 and 2006. Among the general surgeons, aged 25 to 54 years old, the number of those working in hospitals fell by 2,567 (16.2%) between 2000 and 2006, while the number working in health clinics rose by 348 (19.8%). The ratio of female general surgeons rose from 2.4% in 1996 to 4.5% in 2006.


The decrease in general surgeons in Japan is largely often due to mid-career job separation.

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