Message from the Chairman

Timothy J. Eberlein, MD

The 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.

The primary focus of our training program is the surgical trainee. Our residents play the primary role in how the program is managed. There are two administrative chief residents (who are called the Walter F. Ballinger Administrative Chief Residents) who direct much of the day-to-day management of the program. These chiefs are directly supervised by Paul E. Wise, MD, who is our full-time program director. Dr. Wise is nationally recognized for his contributions to surgical postgraduate education. He is assisted by three associate program directors: Amy Cyr, MD, Ryan Fields, MD, and Jason Wellen, MD. In addition to these superb leaders, our department has a standing residency committee – consisting 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. Additionally, there are semi-annual evaluations of the residents and the program, including each of the various rotations and each of the faculty.

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 that have resulted from this very crucial feedback have created a program that is a leader in reducing resident work hours, fostering individual and group mentoring, introducing innovative educational approaches and fostering professional growth of resident leaders. Our residents, along with our faculty members, are primarily responsible for the selection of new residents joining the program.

This year, our department’s educational program is embarking on an exciting new paradigm shift. Under the leadership of Mary 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. Our hope is that we will change the approach to surgical education. We will adhere to a specific curriculum (SCORE) with emphasis on simulation and virtual training. We have worked very hard to reduce 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 Dr. Michael Awad, associate dean for medical student education, we have also developed an "academy model" that is unique in residency training and will greatly enhance the educational focus of our training program.

This past year, we have significantly upgraded the educational facilities in the Department of Surgery and centralized our education offices and support facilities for our residency program. These newly renovated facilities are all consolidated on the 9th floor of Wohl Hospital in the geographic center of our medical complex.

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 endeavors that result in enhancing the education of our trainees. 

Along with our outstanding clinical program, our trainees have unparalleled research opportunities in the Department of Surgery. Currently, the Department has more than $29 million in peer-reviewed external funding, representing over 120 grants. Additionally, there is almost $3 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 science 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 have also had residents who have done international rotations to obtain clinical expertise as well as perform research studies. 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 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, 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 distinguished 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 continued to make significant investment in recruitment of faculty, initiation of unique educational programs, provision of exceptional laboratory and clinical opportunities, all with the focus of enhancing 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