How to Become a Surgeon

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How to Become a Surgeon

It is going to take a lot of hard work and many years of training, but there are still great rewards in becoming a surgeon. Perhaps you have a deep love of science, a fascination with how the body can be repaired and feel drawn to help people and give back to the community?

Surgeons utilize medical tools to operate on patients, to treat illnesses, repair parts of the body or alter its appearance. It requires strong academic performance and medical training, but also well-developed leadership skills, physical stamina, and dexterity.

In this article, we will give you step by step guide on how to become a surgeon. If you think you have the determination and patience make sure you read on. Are you still wondering whether it is worth the long haul? Jean Robey’s explains why she thinks it is worth all the effort to become a doctor and that it is an important and honorable role which still has a great influence on society.

There is a wide range of specializations which surgeons can pursue depending on their interest: orthopedic surgery, cardiovascular surgery, pediatric surgery, neurological surgery, or plastic surgery to name few. Some physicians perform surgery as part of their wider practice, such as dermatologists, whilst others focus exclusively on surgery.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that demand for physicians and surgeons is expected to grow 13% between 2016 and 2026 which is well ahead of the average, and the median annual wage is for surgeons is over $250.000 a year. The rise follows the continuing demands for healthcare professionals as the baby boomer population ages.

Here is our guide to becoming a surgeon.

Step 1: Undergraduate Degree

If you are aiming for medical school, then you must first successfully complete a four-year undergraduate college program. You should select a program which sets you up well for medical school. Completing a liberal arts degree that offers a pre-med course of study is ideal.

Academic majors are not important for medical school admission, but you should enroll in a standard pre-med curriculum, including anatomy, biology, physiology, chemistry, and physics.

Admission to medical schools is very competitive, so the schools favor applicants who demonstrate they are committed to the field and already have some clinical and healthcare experience.

Your chances of success will increase if you have participated in volunteer programs or internships in the medical field, at places like healthcare clinics or hospitals to gain practical experience.

These experiences also allow you to gain letters of recommendation which will further assist your application. Joining a pre-med club at your college can assist with networking and work experience opportunities too.

To apply for medical school you will need to gain a passing score on the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). The test assesses candidates’ knowledge across a variety of fields, including physics, biology, organic and general chemistry, as well as testing general writing skills, critical thinking and problem-solving.

Step 2: Medical School

Once you have completed your four-year bachelor’s degree, you need to undertake four years of graduate education at a medical school. Here you will gain either a medicine (M.D.) or osteopathy (D.O.) doctorate qualification.

In the first two years student generally, study foundational medical courses. The next two years students undertake clinical clerkships, in which they will work directly with patients, applying the knowledge obtained in the foundation years to diagnose illnesses and provide treatment and care.

Medical schools rotate their students through many areas of medicine, including psychiatry, pediatrics, and critical care. One clerkship that is often required is surgery, so students have the opportunity to see whether this is a good fit for them.

There may also be opportunities to complete elective courses and rotations in different kinds of surgery, such as pediatric surgery or orthopedic surgery, plus advanced surgical techniques.

How to Become a Surgeon

Step 3: Surgery Residency

Once you have obtained your medical degree, you must spend an additional 3-7 years in a residency program to gain practical experience and be qualified to practice surgery.

Typically, the first year is spent completing various hospital rotations. The next few years involve dedicated training in surgery – a general surgery residency takes on average 5 years to complete. General surgery rotations expose trainee surgeons to various surgical care types, like trauma surgery, transplant surgery, vascular surgery, burn surgery, pediatric surgery, orthopedics, pediatric surgery, plastic surgery, urology and more.

Residents complete many rotations of varying length, and gain experience meeting with patients and assisting with surgeries under the supervision of experienced surgeons.

After residency, surgeons can complete an additional fellowship program to focus on sub-specialties.

Step 4: Medical Licensing & Board Certification

All surgeons must be licensed through the medical board to practice medicine in their state or jurisdiction. As well as completing an accredited medical degree, and a residency program, surgeons need to pass several practical and written exams to be licensed. Passing the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) or the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Exam is required, along with becoming board-certified in surgery and any subspecialties by the American Board of Medical Specialists or American Osteopathic Association.

As with most licensed professions, surgeons are generally required to complete a certain amount of continuing education throughout their careers to maintain their licensing.

Top Medical Schools for Surgery

USNews ranks the following medical schools as the top 10 for surgery.

#1           Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA

#2           The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD

#3           Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA

#4           UC San Francisco School of Medicine, San Francisco, CA

#5           Duke University School of Medicine, Durham, NC

#6           University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor, MI

#7           Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO

#8          The University of California–Los Angeles  – David Geffen School of Medicine, Los Angeles, CA

#8           The University of Washington – School of Medicine, Seattle, WA

#10         The University of Pittsburgh – School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, PA

A complete listing of accredited medical schools is available online through The Association of American Medical Colleges.

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