Greetings From The Program Director

On behalf of the faculty of the Department of Surgery at Stanford. we deeply appreciate your interest in our General Surgery Training Program.

Stanford has a long history of educating outstanding clinical surgeons beginning with our founding chair, Emile Holman, a Halsted-trained surgeon who served as Professor and Chair of the department from 1926 to 1955. His tradition continues to this day.

There has been a misconception that clinical surgical training at Stanford is secondary to our research program – nothing could be further from the truth. Hundreds of outstanding clinical surgeons have been trained here and our residents routinely perform in the top 10% of the American Board of Surgery Primary Components in Surgery, especially in complex surgical oncology, hepatic, biliary and pancreatic surgery. Make no mistake about it, clinical surgical training here is broad, deep and rigorous; always has been, always will be.

Because we are an integral part of a world-renowned research university, the Training Program does provide an opportunity to integrate basic and/or applied research into our clinical training program in preparation for a career in academic surgery. In short, we strive to provide an unparalleled opportunity for bright and highly motivated individuals to broadly acquire the skills, knowledge, clinical training and additional resources to become future leaders in surgery. Our program is committed to achieving this in the state of California, the only U.S. state without any ethnic majority and thus we are a diverse group in every way, except in our uncommon commitment to excellence.

This mission has been achieved, and will continue to be a reality, in an environment in which outstanding surgical faculty have the opportunity to work in concert with highly motivated women and men who share this vision. This faculty-resident relationship represents the best features of mentoring and assures the educational process necessary to achieve the lofty goals of both the mentor and the trainee.

There are five hospitals incorporated into the Stanford Surgery Training Program, all of which are complementary to one another: Stanford Hospital and Clinics, Lucile Packard Children's Hospital, Palo Alto Veterans Administration Health Care System, Kaiser Permanente Medical Center and Santa Clara Valley Medical Center. These institutions provide our residents with a broad and well-balanced exposure to all of the modes of practice that they may experience or choose to practice in during their careers. Each of the five hospitals has been incorporated to bring the residency program into compliance with the new RRC/ACGME requirements for the workweek and periods completely off-duty.

The Surgery Training Program is divided into two parts. The first part, the Core General Surgery Residency, is a two year program providing a core body of knowledge, not only for the General Surgery residents, but also for those going on to train in surgical subspecialties such as orthopedics, neurosurgery, otolaryngology and plastic surgery as well as other specialties such as anesthesia or interventional radiology. The program is driven by a core curriculum, which determines not only the subject matter of the core course, but also the clinical rotations. It provides a broad-based and well-balanced foundation in surgery.

The second part, the Senior General Surgery Residency, is a three year program of intense, in-depth experience in General Surgery, including Trauma/Surgical Critical Care, Surgical Oncology, Endocrine Surgery and Advanced Minimally Invasive Surgery, including Bariatric Surgery, Vascular Surgery, Transplantation Surgery, Colorectal Surgery, and Pediatric Surgery. At the completion of the chief resident year, residents have performed more than 1,000 operations and are well qualified to join an academic faculty in Surgery, enter the practice of General Surgery, or enter a fellowship.

In between, there is an opportunity for individuals to spend one, two or three years in a period of intense study, which we have termed Professional Development, usually at the completion of the second year of clinical training. Professional Development activities are much broader than the old concept of “the lab years”. Beginning in the first year of clinical training discussions occur between categorical trainees and their mentors designed to culminate in the choice of a professional development plan. This may occur anywhere within the Department of Surgery, on the Stanford campus, or elsewhere if deemed appropriate. The trainee is encouraged to gather skills of depth in a particular area which may be basic science research, surgical education, health services policy and pursue advanced degrees, including an MBA, MPH, PhD or others.

To achieve anything “insanely great” requires hard work, dedication, good teachers, a supportive environment, and a lot more. This cannot be misconstrued with work that has no educational value, or work hours so laborious that learning cannot occur. However, discipline is also an extremely important component to surgical training. Surgery is not a discipline that lends itself to “shift work”. If there is any lesson that we wish to teach each other in this regard, it is that the well being of our patients comes first and that our patients’ needs often take precedence over our own, even when it is inconvenient.

A number of new programs and designations which highlight surgical education have occurred at Stanford over the last three years. In 2006 Dr. Ralph Greco was honored as the recipient of the Parker J. Palmer “Courage to Teach Award” designated by the ACGME, the most prestigious teaching award given by that organization each year. The Goodman Simulation Center (GSC) opened in 2006 and in 2013 the Center received reaccreditation by the American College of Surgeons (ACS) as an Education Institute following a comprehensive evaluation of our program by a team of representatives from the ACS. Our last ACGME site visit was in February of 2013 and we were reaccredited; our next site visit is scheduled for June 2020.

The Goodman Simulation Center at Stanford is located in the heart of Stanford Hospital. The Center was created with a focus and vision of simulation-based training as an integral part of both surgical training and patient safety. The GSC utilizes part-task trainers, mannequin team training and state-of-the-art 3-D imaging for surgical planning. The Goodman Simulation Center is one of three Simulation Centers at Stanford and part of the consortium of the Center for Immersive and Simulation-based Learning (CISL) at Stanford University ( The Goodman Simulation Center is a Level 1 American College of Surgeons (ACS) Accredited Education Institute ( as well as a Fundamentals of Laparoscopic Surgery (FLS) approved test site ( This Center is operational thanks to the shared vision and significant resources made available by donors, the School of Medicine, Stanford Hospital, and the Department of Surgery.

On behalf of the entire faculty we appreciate your interest in Stanford and we look forward to meeting you in the not-too-distant future.


Marc M. Melcher, MD, PhD
Program Director