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Surgery. 2018 Oct;164(4):726-732. doi: 10.1016/j.surg.2018.04.042. Epub 2018 Aug 8.

Ten-year reassessment of the shortage of general surgeons: Increases in graduation numbers of general surgery residents are insufficient to meet the future demand for general surgeons.

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The Ohio State University Department of Surgery, Columbus. Electronic address:
The Ohio State University Department of Surgery, Columbus.
The Ohio State University Department of Emergency Medicine, Columbus.



In 2008, we projected that a deficit in the general surgical workforce would grow to 19% by 2050. We reexamined population-based general surgical workforce projections to determine the impact of recent changes in population estimates and trends in certification and General Surgery Residency.


We reviewed the Census Bureau data and the potential pool of general surgeons defined by American Board of Surgery certificates, residents completing Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education-approved General Surgery Residency and combined American Board of Surgery and osteopathic certificates averaged from 2007-2016. The model included removal of 150 surgeons/year who subspecialize and 729 retirements/year.


Updated census projections estimate a 2050 U.S. population of 439 million, a 19 million increase over prior census projections. From 2007-2016, the American Board of Surgery granted 10,173 certificates, averaging 1,017/year; General Surgery Residency graduations were 10,088, averaging 1,088/year; combined American Board of Surgery and osteopathic (American Osteopathic Association) certificates were 10,084, averaging 1,084/year. General surgical workforce shortage in 2050 is projected to be 7,047 (21%) based on American Board of Surgery certificates; 4,917(15%) based on General Surgery Residency completions; 5,037 (15%) based on combined American Board of Surgery and American Osteopathic Association certificates; and 57 (0%) based on hypothetical expansion of general surgeons training by 75 positions by 2021.


Without increasing future general surgeons training numbers, the projected future general surgical workforce shortage will continue to grow.


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