Failure-to-Progress Through Surgical Residency: A 9-Year Analysis

Charalampos Siotos, Rachael M. Payne, Amr Mirdad, Kalliopi Siotou, Scott Lifchez, Damon Cooney, Gedge David Rosson, Carisa Miller Cooney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Objective: General surgery and surgical subspecialty residents account for nearly 19% of US medical residents; however, it is well known that many surgical residents fail to graduate from their residency training program. We sought to comprehensively evaluate recent trends in nonprogression rates among surgical residents. Design: This is a retrospective study on residents during the 2007 to 2016 academic years. We calculated the annualized progression failure rate by extracting the total number of residents who progress to the next level of training per year, total number of residents who failed to progress per year, and reasons for discontinuing residency. Proportions of residents who failed to progress were calculated to estimate potential differences in progression failure rates among different specialties across time. Setting: We evaluated information provided by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education during the 2007 to 2016 academic years. Participants: Surgical and nonsurgical residents of Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education accredited programs during the period 2007 to 2016. Results: Overall, 2.67% of surgical residents did not progress to the next level each year. This proportion is higher in surgical specialties than in nonsurgical ones. Nonprogression rates for individual surgical specialties ranged from 0.4% to 4.1% on average per year. In addition, observed changes in rates and reasons for attrition varied across individual specialties. Of the surgical residents who failed to progress, more than 50% transferred to a different program, 40% withdrew, and 9% were dismissed. Conclusions: Our findings indicate that surgical residents are more likely to leave their initial residency program prior to completion than residents in medical specialties. Annualized ratios among subspecialties vary. General surgeons were the most likely and otolaryngology residents the least likely to discontinue their training.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of surgical education
StateAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2019



  • Education
  • Practice-Based Learning and Improvement
  • Professionalism
  • Residency
  • Specialties, Surgical
  • Systems-Based Practice
  • Training

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Education

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