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J Surg Educ. 2016 May-Jun;73(3):422-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jsurg.2015.12.001. Epub 2016 Jan 11.

Does Formal Research Training Lead to Academic Success in Plastic Surgery? A Comprehensive Analysis of U.S. Academic Plastic Surgeons.

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Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore, Maryland.
Division of Plastic Surgery, University of Washington Medical Center, Seattle, Washington.
Department of General Surgery, Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore, Maryland.
Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts.
Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore, Maryland. Electronic address:



It is currently unknown whether formal research training has an influence on academic advancement in plastic surgery. The purpose of this study was to determine whether formal research training was associated with higher research productivity, academic rank, and procurement of extramural National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding in plastic surgery, comparing academic surgeons who completed said research training with those without.


This was a cross-sectional study of full-time academic plastic surgeons in the United States. The main predictor variable was formal research training, defined as completion of a postdoctoral research fellowship or attainment of a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD). The primary outcome was scientific productivity measured by the Hirsh-index (h-index, the number of publications, h that have at least h citations each). The secondary outcomes were academic rank and NIH funding. Descriptive, bivariate, and multiple regression statistics were computed.


A total of 607 academic surgeons were identified from 94 Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education-accredited plastic surgery training programs. In all, 179 (29.5%) surgeons completed formal research training. The mean h-index was 11.7 ± 9.9. And, 58 (9.6%) surgeons successfully procured NIH funding. The distribution of academic rank was the following: endowed professor (5.4%), professor (23.9%), associate professor (23.4%), assistant professor (46.0%), and instructor (1.3%). In a multiple regression analysis, completion of formal research training was significantly predictive of a higher h-index and successful procurement of NIH funding.


Current evidence demonstrates that formal research training is associated with higher scientific productivity and increased likelihood of future NIH funding.


Medical Knowledge; Professionalism; Systems-Based Practice; academic practice; h-index; postdoctoral research training; research training; residency; surgical training

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