By Lt. Cmdr. Jacob Quail, chief surgery resident, Naval Medical Center San Diego
The Naval Medical Center San Diego (NMCSD) General Surgery Residency Program is abuzz with energy and excitement these days. The department has just finished a renovation of its administrative, endoscopic and clinical workspaces. Along with this departmental renovation, the residency program is also experiencing a renovation – a reinvigorated research, academic and clinical program. As a surgery resident, I have witnessed this renovation and am proud of its recent accomplishments and excited about its future.
Providing leadership by example, the departmental and residency leadership has explicitly stated that one of the priorities of this residency program is being actively involved in research. More than 90 percent of our surgery residents are involved in research projects. Surgery residents are not only working on research projects at NMCSD, but also have developed strong relationships with research programs throughout San Diego, including those at the trauma center at Scripps Mercy Hospital, Rady Children’s Hospital and University of California – San Diego (UCSD).
Research opportunities abound in our program:
- We have the option of performing at least one year of dedicated research in established research programs throughout San Diego. Former and current research residents have had the amazing opportunity to work with renowned trauma research programs at Scripps Mercy and UCSD hospitals, with the pediatric surgery research program at Rady Children’s Hospital and also with cancer research programs at UCSD’s Moores Cancer Center. Preparing for a fellowship in surgical oncology, I was lucky enough to spend a year in a translational research program studying mechanisms of resistance to platinum-containing drugs at UCSD’s Moores Cancer Center.
- We also have the opportunity and are highly encouraged to perform research during our clinical years. For example, I have been able to work on research projects with our acute care surgeons studying chronic groin pain following inguinal hernia repair, with our vascular surgeons studying vascular trauma from the War on Terror and also with our breast surgeons studying gynecomastia in our active duty population. Other residents are working with our minimally-invasive surgeons and their robotic surgery program while others are involved with multiple projects in surgical education. The opportunities are endless.
- Furthermore we have the prospect to participate in missions on the USNS Mercy, stationed in San Diego. Surgery residents who have participated in previous missions have presented their experiences at national meetings and published on humanitarian medicine and surgical education. This summer, several general surgery residents are preparing to participate in upcoming missions in Southeast Asia through Pacific Partnership 2015.
- We are able to present our research program at great conferences not only throughout the nation, but also internationally. Our residents and staff have recently presented their work in such far-reaching places as Canada, Hawaii, and Florida and a surgery resident is planning their trip to South Korea soon.
A surging academic curriculum within our residency is one reason for the recent success of our research program. A standardized, weekly academic program established two years ago has resulted in a high-pass rate not only in our annual in-training examination (76 percent above the national mean and 53 percent above the 70 percent percentile for the past two years), but also on the American Board of Surgery General Surgery Board examination (93 percent first-time passing rate for the past five years, 100 percent first-time passing rate for the past three years). After completing the challenging academic curriculum, I feel very well prepared for my board examinations next year.
Along with a strong research and academic curriculum, we enjoy a diverse clinical experience ranging from providing care to Level 1 trauma patients, flying on organ procurements during our transplant rotation to performing surgery at bedside in the neonatal intensive care unit. For a Navy surgical resident, this diversity is important to becoming a well-rounded and independent Navy surgeon, as I will be transferring to Naval Hospital Guam after graduation to work for two years prior to my fellowship. Finally, with residents now deploying on the USNS Mercy and development of a combat curriculum, our clinical experience provided by this residency program is second-to-none.
The surgery residency is thriving at Naval Medical Center San Diego, thanks to its departmental leadership and a commitment to excellence and I’m proud to have been apart of it these past six years.