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November 14, 1977

Private Patients and Surgical Training

JAMA. 1977;238(20):2180. doi:10.1001/jama.1977.03280210072033

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Inaccurate and occasionally inflammatory descriptions of the education of surgeons in recent news reports have produced unnecessary anxiety in many patients. For several months after a television program that presented surgical residents as inept students and their teachers as uncertain apologists, anxious patients asked me, "Doctor, will you do the operation?" Before a surgeon-educator can answer this question, he must have a clear concept of the purposes of surgical education and the nature of the surgeon-patient relationship.

The nature of surgical treatment focuses a surgeon's education on two paramount skills: surgical technique and judgment of when and when not to operate. Development of both abilities requires progressively increasing responsibility for patient care during the period of surgical training. By the time his residency is completed, a surgeon must be competent to exercise sound surgical judgment, and he must possess adequate technical skill for independent practice.

These goals were achieved readily