Careers in Surgical Education

Are you thinking about a career in surgical education? There are many pathways and opportunities for involvement at various levels, from your own institution to the ACGME. Here are some examples of positions along the spectrum of surgical education:

Clerkship/Medical Student Director

Provides oversight for the surgery rotation for third and fourth year medical students. The clerkship director develops curriculum and assessment for the rotation, including didactics, skills acquisition, and grading requirements. He/she councils and advises students who are exploring careers in surgery and may assist in the residency application process. The clerkship director is the “point person” for communication and interaction between students and other members of the surgery program including faculty, residents, and staff.

Residency or Fellowship Program Director

Responsible for overseeing the educational program of the residency or fellowship. He/she has knowledge and ability in education and evaluation methods, experience in leadership, and strong communication skills. The program director facilitates the administration of a longitudinal curriculum that fulfills the American Board of Surgery requirements for residency training. He/she is an advisor to residents and dedicated to helping them achieve their professional goals. Per the ACGME, the program director should be a faculty member for at least five years, including two years at the institution at which they are being appointed.

Surgical Director of Simulation or Skills Center

A practicing surgeon who is responsible for the surgical program of the skills or simulation center. He/she creates and administers curricula targeted towards the acquisition of technical skills including those necessary for open procedures, laparoscopy, endoscopy, and robotics. He/she oversees the education and assessment of learners ranging from medical students and residents to faculty and staff. The director is also involved in managing the equipment and technology required for simulation and skills labs.

Vice Chair of Education

This position may be at the departmental or institutional level. Primary responsibilities include developing performance and program evaluation systems, and managing educational resources. The vice chair also oversees faculty development and mentors faculty and residents interested in pursuing educational research. He/she must possess leadership skills as well as a record of excellence as an educator at an undergraduate, graduate, and faculty level.  Advanced training such as a masters’ degree in education is frequently acquired in preparation for advancement to a position such as vice chair.

Dean of Medical Education

Chief official of the medical school and highest ranking administrator. Per the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME), the dean must be qualified by education and experience to provide leadership in medical education, scholarly activity, and patient care. The dean leads the institution’s Graduate Medical Education (GME) and Continuing Medical Education (CME) programs in strategic and operational planning, implementation, monitoring/assessment and continuous quality enhancement. He/she oversees the research agenda, facilitates scholarship, and ensures the clinical environment provides high quality patient care and is conducive to appropriate integration of the educational and research programs. The dean is responsible for aspects of the school’s budget and policies, and collaborates with other institutional leaders to support and fulfill the academic mission.

Graduate Medical Education (GME) positions, i.e. Designated Institutional Officer (DIO)

These are administrative and leadership positions at the institutional level. Officers have the authority and responsibility for the oversight and administration of each of the sponsoring institution’s ACGME accredited programs, i.e. residency programs in each specialty. They ensure compliance with institutional, common, and specialty-specific program requirements via internal review and ACGME site visits. Officers are the major liaison between residents, residency program leaders, school administration, and leaders of affiliated hospitals to ensure an effectively integrated GME operation.


Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) positions

Resident Review Committee (RRC) Member

Members are physicians nominated by their professional organization or society (i.e. the American College of Surgeons), their specialty board (i.e. the American Board of Surgery), or the American Medical Association’s Council on Medical Education. They are responsible for achieving the committee’s mission to set accreditation standards, provide peer evaluation of programs, and confer an accreditation status with regard to meeting those standards.

Accreditation Field Representative (Site Visitor)

Conducts accreditation site visits of residency and fellowship education programs and sponsoring institutions, alone or as part of a team, and prepares comprehensive, objective reports to be used by the Review Committees and the Institutional Review Committee in making accreditation decisions. Representatives are expected to have had experience in GME as program directors, teaching faculty members, or GME administrators.

CLER Program Field Representative (CLER Site Visitor)

Conducts site visits to assess how sponsoring institutions fulfill their responsibility to integrate residents and fellows in the quality and safety of the environment for learning and patient care. He/she produces reports describing findings from semi-structured interviews and direct observations. He/she also assesses how sponsoring institutions oversee practices around transitions of care, supervision, duty hours oversight, fatigue management/mitigation, and professionalism. Representatives have extensive experience as patient safety or quality improvement leaders or as DIOs, program directors with more than five years’ experience, or associate/assistant dean-level administrative experience in medical education.