Message from the Chairman

Timothy EberleinTimothy Eberlein, MDThe Department of Surgery at Washington University School of Medicine has a long and distinguished history of training its graduates to become leaders in academic surgery.

Our residents play a primary role in how the program is managed. There are two administrative chief residents (called the Walter F. Ballinger Administrative Chief Residents) who direct much of the day-to-day program management. These chiefs are directly supervised by our full-time Program Director Paul E. Wise, MD, who is nationally recognized for his contributions to surgical postgraduate education. He is assisted by five associate program directors: breast surgeon Amy E. Cyr, MD; hepatobiliary-pancreatic surgeon Ryan C. Fields, MD; transplant surgeon Jason R. Wellen, MD; minimally invasive surgeon Michael M. Awad, MD, PhD; and trauma surgeon Laurie J. Punch, MD. In addition, our department has a standing residency committee composed of residents and committed faculty members that oversees all aspects of the training program. Each resident is paired with a faculty advisor throughout his or her training, providing a structure that offers support and mentoring, both personally and professionally. There are also semi-annual evaluations of the residents and the program, including each of the various rotations and faculty member.

Each year, we hold a unique resident retreat during which recommendations are made to the program director and the department chairman for constructive changes to the program. In addition to ongoing changes that may be made on a routine basis, the changes resulting from this very crucial feedback have made us a leader in reducing resident work hours, promoting individual and group mentoring, introducing innovative educational approaches, and fostering professional growth of resident leaders. Our residents join with faculty members in selecting new residents who join the program.

Our residents also participate in an exciting new program that we hope will change the approach to surgical education. Under the leadership of Mary E. Klingensmith, MD, our vice chair for education, we have led and developed a pilot project called Flexibility in Surgical Training (FIST). Our efforts have been joined by residency programs at several other institutions. We adhere to a specific curriculum (SCORE) with emphasis on simulation and virtual training, and have reduced the service component that our residents perform. We have developed performance reviews based on expectations for each rotation that are communicated to the resident at the beginning of the rotation. We also emphasize team building. This flexibility in surgical training will allow our trainees to focus up to 12 months of their training in the area in which they hope to practice. Under the leadership of Michael M. Awad, MD, PhD, associate dean for medical student education, we have also developed an "academy model" that incorporates a more structured approach to training.

To provide the best educational opportunities for our trainees, we place our primary focus on superb patient care. Our residents have access to more than 40,000 cases annually at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, St. Louis Children’s Hospital, the John Cochran VA Medical Center and Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital. Resident involvement in patient care at each of these institutions results in a comprehensive experience in general surgery as well as all of the surgical specialties. Our program has been very proactive in the use of physician extenders and other practices that result in enhancing the education of our trainees.

Our residency has also partnered with the University of Cincinnati General Surgery Residency to open up an international two-month rotation at Mzuzu Central Hospital in Mzuzu, Malawi. Mzuzu Central Hospital is a district hospital and referral center in northern Malawi serving a region of approximately 2.5 million people. Residents participating in this program hope to make a positive impact on patients through surgical care and education, and gain invaluable experience in providing care in a different culture. This international rotation is exciting and enthusiastically endorsed by our residents.

Along with our outstanding clinical program, our trainees have unparalleled research opportunities in the Department of Surgery. Currently, the Department has more than $26 million in peer-reviewed external funding, representing over 120 grants. Additionally, there is almost $4 million dollars in clinical trial funding annually. Our trainees can take advantage of wet laboratory experience throughout the Department of Surgery, which includes every division and section in the department. Recently, our department has engaged in a major effort that spans each of the divisions in clinical, translational and outcomes research initiatives. We have a number of innovative programs that deal with cost-effective care, best pathways, outcomes research and patient safety. A number of our trainees have worked in our Division of Public Health Sciences. There, they can perform population health studies, epidemiology and disparities research. Several have done internal rotations related to this research activity. Our trainees may also earn master's degrees in business administration, public health, population health sciences or clinical investigation during their training years. Finally, we have a number of trainees who have emphasized education as their scholarly pursuit and have developed expertise in educational efforts that prepare them for leadership roles in surgical education. We also have a number of our faculty who have done international humanitarian work, and resident participation has been encouraged.

The real strength of our department is its people. Our faculty members have enormous strength and represent a truly impressive depth and breadth of clinical research and administrative leadership. Over the last several years, the Department of Surgery faculty has produced presidents of the American Board of Colorectal Surgery, Society of American Gastrointestinal and Endoscopic Surgeons (SAGES), Society for Colorectal Surgery, American Hepato-Pancreatico-Biliary Association, Society of Critical Care Medicine, Society of Surgical Oncology, Society of Vascular Surgery, International Society for Heart and Lung Transplantation, American Association of Hand Surgery, American Association of Plastic Surgery, American Association for Thoracic Surgery, Vascular Access Society of the Americas, Association of Academic Surgery, Society of University Surgeons, Society of Clinical Surgery, American Surgical Association and the Southern Surgical Association. These leadership roles result in important contacts for fellowship and academic appointments. A more important distinction, beyond the faculty’s qualifications, is their uniform enthusiasm in supporting the department’s central mission, which is educating the future leaders of American surgery. They actively embrace their roles as mentors and role models for our trainees and have actively supported changes to our educational program.

In summary, we continuously work to enhance the experience of each of our trainees and to improve the environment in which they train. Over the last year, we have made a significant investment in recruitment of faculty, initiation of unique educational programs, provision of exceptional laboratory and clinical opportunities, all with the focus of improving the educational opportunities for the next generation of surgical leaders. We believe we have created an unparalleled environment for training in surgery. We would love to have you join our surgical family.

Timothy J. Eberlein, MD
Bixby Professor and Chairman
Department of Surgery