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August 12, 1983

When Does a Surgeon Retire?

JAMA. 1983;250(6):757-758. doi:10.1001/jama.1983.03340060035021

ONE DAY while driving to the Albuquerque Airport, my companion, a fellow surgeon, blurted out, "I'm retiring next year. Did you know that 95% of 'board certified' surgeons in the United States have retired from the operating room by the time they are 65?" I never bothered to verify that statistic. I was 60 and still "flying." A newcomer to Santa Fe, I was certain that my cerebral synapses were carbon free and that I was as technically dextrous as ever. I was relaxed, well informed, full of vigor. That was when I began to take an occasional look toward the dreaded horizon. Why had I not given retirement serious consideration before?

Other than incapacitating illness, what are the circumstances that can bring the aging surgeon's career to a halt? Are there bylaws in hospital surgical departments fixing a retirement date regardless of the physician's health and technical and diagnostic