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J Surg Res. 2016 Jun 15;203(2):319-23. doi: 10.1016/j.jss.2016.04.042. Epub 2016 Apr 25.

Humanitarian skill set acquisition trends among graduating US surgical residents, 2004-2014.

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Department of Surgery, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Trauma and Critical Care Surgery, Department of Surgery, Northwestern University, Chicago, Illinois.
Department of Pediatric Surgery, Women & Children's Hospital of Buffalo, Buffalo, New York; Department of Surgery, University at Buffalo Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Science, SUNY, Buffalo, New York. Electronic address:



Although interest in practicing surgery in resource-constrained settings is on the rise among graduating US surgical residents, there is ongoing debate about an optimal humanitarian skill set for surgeons who chose to work in such settings. In addition, increased emphasis on general surgery case exposure at the cost of specialty surgery case exposure has been documented and may have a negative impact on the breadth of resident training. Review of general surgery resident case logs to gauge experience in specialty surgery may provide insight into residents' readiness for work in resource-limited settings.


We compared Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education general surgery resident case logs from 2004 to 2014 for operations thought to be essential for working in resource-constrained settings. These operations were chosen from published literature on this topic and authors' personal experience. Case numbers for specialty operations were compared by unpaired t-test analysis between the two periods.


Case averages in pediatric, genitourinary, and gynecologic surgery decreased significantly from 2004 to 2014 (range, 27%-46%). Orthopedic surgery case averages were unchanged, and plastic and general abdominal surgery case averages increased (range, 47%-50%).


Case mix among graduating US surgical residents has narrowed over the past 10 y. Resident experience in a variety of specialty fields, thought to be essential in resource-constrained settings, decreased markedly over the study period. Residents who intend to work in resource-constrained settings may need to craft individualized residency experiences or pursue postgraduate training in specialty surgery courses to best prepare for such work.


ACGME; Humanitarian; Skill set

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