General Surgery

One of the strengths of the five-year General Surgery Residency is its blend of inpatient and outpatient experiences, closely resembling the practice of general surgeons. It also offers both primary care and tertiary care opportunities in a very busy surgical practice. Residents see both the routine and more unusual cases in surgery.

Residents have a unique opportunity to work side-by-side with attending surgeons from day one. Residents also enjoy extensive hands-on experiences in surgical specialties during their five years. They gain increasing responsibilities in care of patients before, during and after surgery and, as chief residents, they run a surgical service under the guidance of supervising surgeons.

A typical resident performs more than 1,200 operations during the five-year program, including 350 in the senior year. Residents are supplied with personally-fit surgical loupes to assist with the performance of fine procedures.

The program is geared toward surgeons interested in general surgery, with many of our graduates choosing to practice in smaller communities. But every graduate who has chosen to continue training into a surgical subspecialty has been accepted into fellowships in cardiothoracic, vascular, endocrine, colorectal, advanced laparoscopic and trauma/critical care surgery.

Twenty-five percent of our former residents are women, including the first woman in Wisconsin to graduate from a general surgery program. Our graduates have an exceptional record in passing their written and oral boards — 100 and 89 percent compared with a national average of 85 and 83 percent respectively. This reflects our faculty’s commitment to teaching.

Our focus is to train clinical surgeons who are excellent clinicians and understand the basic science behind surgical procedures. Our attending staff is available to answer questions, and values the close working relationships with residents and medical students.

Our teaching atmosphere is nurturing rather than adversarial, a milieu we believe prepares better doctors and enhances superior patient care. We offer lectures, small group discussions and interactive conferences in which attending and resident physicians discuss cases. The Cleary Surgical Techniques Training Laboratory, which opened in 1995, offers residents opportunities for additional practice in laparoscopy, trauma, stapling and other surgical techniques.

Surgeons here are interested in clinical research and residents are expected to publish two papers in peer-reviewed journals during their residency and make two presentations at regional or national medical meetings. These requirements enhance the residents' ability to access and use medical literature and create a desire to find answers to problems that surgeons experience in practice.

To support this requirement, we provide the assistance of a surgical research associate, a secretary, databases and statistical resources. A departmental library and dedicated computers augment these resources. Residents receive full credit for the work they do and are recognized as author or co-author of these projects.

The Surgical Program
The General Surgery Residency is a five-year program leading to board eligibility. Residents complete rotations in general surgery, orthopaedic surgery, otolaryngology, emergency medicine, urological surgery, anesthesia, plastic surgery, cardiothoracic surgery, endoscopy, critical care and obstetrics/gynecology.

Second-year residents receive experience in the care of burn patients on a four-week rotation at the University of Wisconsin Hospital in Madison.

Third-year residents receive experience in the care of transplant patients on a four-week rotation at the University of Wisconsin Hospital in Madison.

Because there are no residents or fellows in surgical subspecialties, such as neurosurgery, cardiac surgery or urology, surgical residents are actively involved in the care of patients in these areas. Rather than serving as observers or third assistants, they have hands-on experience as first assistants or as the operating surgeon.

Our Mission
We seek to train general surgeons who are outstanding clinicians. Our graduates will have an intense commitment to patient care and lifelong learning. We will assist the development of this expertise by providing our trainees with strong foundations of academic excellence, sound technical skills, clinical research, and an understanding of contemporary issues in surgical practice.

In March/April 2009, the Journal of Surgical Education published research citing Gundersen Medical Foundation's program as one of the top in the nation. Out of 191 general surgery training programs, Gundersen ranked first in two of the five criteria.

"It is our goal to train excellent general surgeons who approach their practice from an academic standpoint. Whether they practice in rural America or go on to a specialty fellowship after graduation, they will have a strong educational background and possess the knowledge, experience and clinical skills to achieve success."
—Thomas H. Cogbill, MD, Past General Surgery Residency Program Director

"You truly get a sense that the people involved in education really want to teach and mentor young doctors; they don't do it just out of some contractual obligation. There are very few programs that prepare you to enter real world practice better than Gundersen Lutheran. Our residents work very hard, get a tremendous operative experience, and leave the program ready to provide great care and service to their communities."
—Marilu Bintz, MD, Graduate, General Surgery Residency. General Surgeon, Gundersen-Prairie du Chien Clinic, Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin

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