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Commentary |

The Impending Disappearance of the General Surgeon

Josef E. Fischer, MD
JAMA. 2007;298(18):2191-2193. doi:10.1001/jama.298.18.2191.
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In the United States, approximately 1000 general surgeons complete their residency training each year. These surgeons have completed 4 years of medical school and 5 clinical years of residency, and during residency many also have spent 1 or 2 years in a research laboratory. Thus, these physicians enter the workforce between the ages of 33 and 35 and usually have $150 000 to $250 000 in educational debt.1 The training of surgeons has been stable since the early 1970s, and the number of general surgery residency training programs will not likely increase. Even if new medical schools were established the number of surgeons trained would not likely increase much, because many medical students have lost interest in pursuing a career in surgery.

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Figure. Specialty as Percentage of Total Physician Workforce
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Source: Physician Characteristics and Distribution in the US, 2007.18

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