A supply and demand look at surgeons

OHSU surgeons co-author study on general surgery job market

March 21, 2014

Can market forces of supply and demand impact a general surgeon's decision to pursue fellowship training? This question was at the heart of a study co-authored by OHSU surgeons. From 2008 to 2012 – the time period included in the study – nearly 70 percent of general surgery residents pursued fellowship training, but findings indicate this sub-specialization may not be what the job market needs.

Nathan Bronson, M.D., chief resident of general surgery, James Dolan, M.D., assistant professor of surgery, and John Hunter, M.D., chair and professor of surgery, collaborated with colleagues from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The study was published in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons.

Their findings have created a buzz among those interested in general surgery workforce issues. Dr. Bronson was featured in a front-page article for General Surgery News. The School of Medicine wanted to know more, so we asked Dr. Bronson for some background and his reaction to the findings.

What prompted you to study fellowship training and the surgery workforce?

There have been many studies done on residency training, and it is well known that the vast majority of general surgery residents pursue fellowship, but no one has previously studied what specific skill sets are needed from those residents once they enter the workforce. There is a well known shortage of general surgeons in critical access hospitals and rural settings throughout the country, with shortages expected to get worse, so it seemed logical to better evaluate the exact discrepancy between the supply and the demand of the skill sets our trainees acquire during their training.

What can surgery residents and program directors learn from your study's findings?

I think it highlights a need for dramatic changes in the current training paradigm. For example, OHSU is one of the few programs in the nation to have a rural general surgery training program, and we are expanding that program to better meet the needs highlighted in this study, which I think is a very good thing.

Did the study's finding affect your decision about pursuing a fellowship?

My decision to pursue fellowship was already made well before we started this study, and was made for reasons other than market demand, but this study does provide reassurance that as a general surgeon, the skill set that I have acquired while at OHSU will likely be in high demand for the remainder of my career.