July 1981

What Is General Surgery? Who Is a General Surgeon?

Arch Surg. 1981;116(7):853. doi:10.1001/archsurg.1981.01380190005001

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There are many surgeons in the United States who consider themselves "general surgeons," and presumably each of them has some concept of what this term means. Yet any cocktail-party conversation soon reveals that the lay public has no clear idea of the role of the general surgeon. Indeed, whereas the family practitioner has a clearly defined image, there is some doubt that the general surgeon is even a specialist! A recent workshop at the Clinical Congress of the American College of Surgeons suggests that general surgeons themselves may be unable to define their speciality. Against this background, an attempt to define both the field of general surgery and the expertise of the general surgeon may be warranted.

The first source of such a definition should be the American Board of Surgery. The booklet of that board is quite specific. It states that "general surgery" requires a detailed knowledge of seven

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