Ask Survivor DO: How to match into General Surgery


I recently received this question on SDN about how to match into general surgery. Blog posts have been hard to come by lately but I thought you all would enjoy reading this!

You give wonderful advice, and I have recently discovered the treasures you share on your blog. I really appreciate it. I hope my donations will help. Thanks, they really do!

I am aware that interests may change throughout the four years of medical school (probably, but it always helps to have an idea), but currently I would absolutely love to practice general surgery. After seeing your wisdom and experiences, I wonder if I may please ask you for some more advice? I previously searched many forums to see if you have answered these before, so I apologize if you have and I did not see them.

I assume that every medical residency position is competitive. But, if I would like to practice general surgery, can I get a residency in this specialty? Or is it very competitive and limited?

I would say General Surgery is moderately competitive. It isn’t crazy like Ortho/Uro where you basically have to brown nose your way in. If you apply yourself and do the right things, I think you will have no problem securing a spot.

When students are applying and listing programs in the MATCH, are all of the student’s chosen/listed programs of the same specialty (i.e., all general surgery or all internal medicine)?

You are allowed to list any program in any specialty you want. It basically comes down to you listing where YOU would want to go… So your top three could be GS programs, #4 and 5 internal medicine and then another GS etc. The logistics of applying to different fields can be a bit difficult though when it comes to doing elective rotations etc. Also, I wouldn’t really let on that you are doing this. Especially if you are say… applying to Ortho and using GS as a backup..

Is it possible to rotate at many GS programs? If I list only GS residency programs in the match, is it likely that I will match at one? Or is it more likely that I would go unmatched?

Your ability to rotate at a number of general surgery programs will mostly be limited by your school. Some schools allow you to do many more “out” rotations than others and some limit the number of rotations you can do in one specialty. Regardless, scheduling these can be a bitch. Best to start early and be persistent. Maybe send the secretary some flowers or something… they are the ones that hold all the power.

Again, I think GS is within the reach of just about any one if they apply themselves properly throughout medical school. You’re all smart people. There is a PLETHORA of information on exactly what it takes available from NRMP’s Charting Outcomes.

I would like to prepare for the future as much as I can. What can I do to increase my likelihood to secure a GS residency and practice GS?

 First thing to do is worry about your studies. You want to build a solid base during 1st and 2nd year. Your school will more than likely have a surgical interest group. You should definitely join. Being a member of the group will introduce you to some opportunities to affirm your interest in GS as well as show programs that you have had an interest from the get go.

Continue strong academics during your 3rd and 4th years. Again, GS programs aren’t gonna kill you if you don’t honor everything but it isn’t a gimme either. I would say you want to be within the top third when it comes to things like grades, boards etc.

Do some audition rotations. Work HARD during them. Be PROACTIVE. The number one complaint I have about auditioning students is that they wait for direction instead of having some initiative. It means a lot more to me that you thought to go check on the result of that CT scan on your own as opposed to me telling you to check on the results of the CT and then you reporting back. A monkey can do that.

Above all, don’t be a douche. Actually, maybe that is my number one complaint about students. Sorry but some of you guys are really douchey. I think some of it comes from the pressure of the match, but honestly there will always be pressure. I can teach you how to manage patients but once a douche, always a douche.

It is a privilege that we have great individuals like you who help and inspire younger generations. Thank you. I sincerely appreciate your help and advice. You’re welcome. It’s my pleasure! Wish I had more time these days!


Ask Survivor DO: How to match into General Surgery — 2 Comments

  1. How big of a deal is it to have a good attitude, and likable personality to get into medical school and wanted residency? I get along with basically everyone and am very personable, but have been told that I need to “grow a backbone” but I don’t want to turn into a douche.

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