General Surgery

Frequently asked Questions by MS1s and MS2s

Exposure to the field and creating positive relationships with surgeons are very important.  Doing exceptionally well in the third year surgical clerkship is extremely important.  Further shadowing of surgeons, reviewing the American College of Surgery website, participating in medical school Surgery Interest groups, and volunteering in a surgical setting are all helpful to understand the field better and to enhance one’s application for a General Surgery residency position.

Not only is research important for a General Surgery application, it is highly encouraged by program directors.  Recent National Resident Matching Program data show that those who match into a General Surgery residency have at least two research experiences and over four abstracts, presentations, and publications.

Research opportunities can be accessed through academic surgeons who are involved with the medical school. In addition, the Scholarly Project office may have ideas and a list of surgeons who would like medical students to be involved with their research. Feel free to also reach out to your Career and Professional Advisor for making connections with physicians and others who may be helpful in this process.

Those candidates who recently matched into General Surgery had, on average, more than four volunteer experiences.  Both volunteering and extracurricular activities such as student government and clubs have many benefits, but the Step 1 score and the Block grades are most important. We recommend that these kinds of activities never supersede your focus on your academics.

In the 2018 NRMP data about the Match, there were 1,319 General Surgery residency positions available. For those applicants who matched, the mean USMLE Step 1 score was 237 and the mean USMLE Step 2 score was 245.

Frequently asked Questions by MS3s and MS4s

The applicant should request 3 or 4 letters of recommendation.  It is preferable to have letters from academic surgeons.  If the candidate has done research, a letter from the research director or mentor should be obtained.  Letters from academic surgeons who know the candidate well, and particularly when the candidate has done an exceptional job during the clerkship, are prime sources for these letters.  It is preferable to have the letters ready by the summer before the ERAS application is due September 15.  Letter writers should have a copy of your CV and Personal Statement (if available), and if possible, an in-person appointment to discuss the letter and to let the writer get to know you better are helpful. It may be valuable to ask the letter writer if he or she is comfortable writing you a “strong letter of recommendation.”

At least 3, and preferably 4, for the ERAS application. We suggest referring to the program’s website for specific requirements.

Yes, but that is not preferable for a General Surgery application.  However, the candidate’s mentor in a significant research project can provide a valuable letter of recommendation.

This is definitely a preferable letter of recommendation to obtain. Some programs specifically require a department chair letter. Please reference the individual program’s website for specific requirements.

This is not a necessity for General Surgery match positions.  However, if one is considering a specific program or a geographically remote location from the candidate’s medical school, then away rotations can be valuable.  Performing extremely well in an away rotation can go a long way to being able to match into that program.

Information specific for General Surgery

General Surgery is an exciting and dynamic field of medicine incorporating advances in technology and surgical management.  The field is defined by taking a direct intervention through anatomic manipulation to treat disease.  Surgical residency involves 5 years of training and a number of academic centers offer and even require 1-2 years of research in addition.  General Surgery is a competitive residency.  Solid USMLE performances, specialty specific research, conference presentations and publications demonstrate significant academic prowess.  Strong performance on your clinical rotations demonstrate your stamina and skill set and are equally important.

Surgery Student Interest Group

Click here to visit the Surgery Interest Group website

General Surgery Specialty Newsletter Report

Additional Resources

Click here to visit the American College of Surgeons website