In considering the selection of an academic surgical training program, the most critical elements include operative experience, research and educational opportunities, and the ultimate career paths of the graduating chief residents. In all three of these areas the Penn Surgical Program has excelled. As a direct result we have continued to attract an extraordinarily diverse and outstanding applicant pool, compiled of individuals clearly intending to pursue careers in academic surgery.
The primary operative experience in our training program is derived from rotations in the principle components of general surgery, of which 70% or more occur at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.
Experience in surgical oncology is obtained under the direction of Douglas Fraker, Chief of the Division of Endocrine and Oncologic Surgery since 1995. Since Dr. Fraker arrived at Penn from the National Institute of Health the number of sophisticated oncologic cases including sarcomas, disseminated intra-abdominal malignancies, hepatic tumors, as well as endocrine pathology has increased exponentially.
Experience in the Gastrointestinal Surgical Service occurs under the direction of Dr. Daniel Dempsey, Chief of the Division of Gastrointestinal Surgery and Chair, Department of Surgery. Here residents are exposed to perhaps one of the busiest and most complex group of patients with a wide variety of gastrointestinal disorders, both benign and malignant. A broad exposure is gained in esophageal, gastric, and pancreatic lesions, as well as other important gastrointestinal tract pathology. Our program is committed to the training and development of outstanding surgical clinicians who are qualified to practice in an independent fashion. Accordingly, experience on a resident’s general surgical service is also provided, which allows a broad exposure to emergency consultations within the hospital and through the emergency room.
The growth of new interventional techniques has expanded the scope of the Vascular Surgical Service, and extensive exposure is provided for trainees here. The Trauma Service at Presbyterian Medical Center is an important component to the core teaching program, providing experience in both blunt and penetrating trauma, as well as extensive teaching in the management of multi-system critically ill patients.
A broad general surgical experience is supplemented at the hospital’s principle affiliates, which includes rotations at the Veterans Administration Medical Center, Presbyterian Medical Center, and Pennsylvania Hospital.
In addition to the principle components of general surgery, there is extensive exposure to the surgical specialties. Selected examples include rotations through the Cardiac Surgical Service, with an outstanding experience in cardiac intensive care. The Thoracic Surgical Service residents gain substantial experience in pulmonary resections and other thoracic disorders. The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia is considered by many to be the top pediatric institution in the country. Under the direction of Dr. N. Scott Adzick, Chief of Pediatric Surgery and a world-renowned leader in the field of fetal surgery, residents have the opportunity to rotate through this extraordinarily unique experience.
Finally, the long-standing interest in Transplantation Surgery at Penn, under the direction of Dr. Abraham Shaked, has provided a strong clinical exposure in the areas of hepatic, renal, and pancreatic transplantation.
As a result of this extraordinarily broad-based clinical experience, the surgical residents at Penn frequently will rank at the 90th percentile on the most complex cases including, but not limited to esophagectomy, gastrectomy, ileo-anal pull-through reconstruction, hepatic resection, biliary reconstruction, pancreatoduodenectomy, parathyroidectomy, adrenalectomy, pulmonary lobectomy, and renal transplantation.
An academic training program must provide an environment that maximizes the educational and research opportunities for the trainee. The Fitts Surgical Education Center and the Measey Surgical Skills Suite provides such a unique educational mileu designed specifically for the surgical housestaff. In addition, a wide range of conferences are available to the residents specific to the given services, as well as a weekly Morbidity and Mortality conference and a monthly Grand Rounds conference.
It is the very nature of our program that attracts individuals with an intense commitment to surgical research. Virtually all of our surgical trainees will participate in 2-3 years of research, generally after the third clinical year, under the direct mentorship of one our surgical faculty. The department exists in an extremely research oriented environment with The University of Pennsylvania Medical Center receiving 2539 research awards, totaling 303.8 million dollars of funding in the year 2000. The Medical Center ranks 2nd in NIH funding in the country, totally 238.4 million dollars. The Medical Center has the highest growth rate in NIH funding over the last 10 years. It should come as no surprise that the Department of Surgery offers a wide range of research opportunities. Our residents frequently develop important contacts with prospective role models early in their training and are given the opportunity to participate in the application process for funding their surgical research projects.
Ultimately a program is best judged by the career paths of its graduates. Over the last 7 years the overwhelming majority of graduates from Penn have pursued fellowship training in outstanding training programs representing a wide range of disciplines including: cardiothoracic surgery (n = 14), vascular surgery (n = 11), surgical oncology (n = 4), plastic surgery (n = 3), pediatric surgery (n = 2), colorectal surgery (n = 1), and transplantation surgery (n = 1).
Through constant interaction with members of the School of Medicine Faculty in frequent unit conferences, intra-operative teaching, daily service rounds, weekly grand rounds and management conferences, housestaff receive broad and intensive experience in the art and science of surgery. The weekly Basic Science Course provides a valuable didactic forum to review the fundamentals of current surgical science and Surgical Grand Rounds provides updates focused on the leading edge of knowledge in surgery. The Penn Medical Center and Health Systems Network, through its diversified Faculty and substantial facilities integrates research, teaching and clinical practice. This vast resource, which includes the School of Medicine, the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and the Clinical Practices of the University of Pennsylvania, provides an outstanding educational environment for the surgeon in training.