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The fundamental goal of the curriculum is to guide the program directors, faculty and trainees/fellows in their pursuit of cardiovascular and thoracic surgical education. The curriculum is a model for surgical learning and competency achievement.  The curriculum serves to facilitate the development of mature, skilled clinicians, thoughtful and learned physicians, curious scholars, successful managers and productive citizens.

The written curricula for our residency programs in Thoracic and Vascular Surgery were developed in consultation with leading academic surgeons and educational experts in the fields of thoracic and vascular training. They are designed to provide specific, core-competency based goals and objectives for each learning unit. An outline of teaching units is provided. A copy of a representative curriculum unit from each of these programs is available (see contact section of this website.)

Integrated Seven-year Sequential Program in Cardiothoracic and Vascular Surgery

Working with key curriculum specialists, our institution has developed an innovative, groundbreaking sequential curriculum leading to board certification in both vascular and thoracic surgery. The curriculum emphasizes relevance and synergism in learning modules, flexibility in design of career paths, and engagement through mentoring by cardiothoracic and vascular surgery role models throughout training

The curriculum is transformative. It builds core and specialty-specific knowledge, skills and attributes with exposures to the most relevant surgical and non-surgical disciplines, under the direction of vascular and thoracic surgery co-program directors. Year one provides a solid knowledge and skills base, energizing the resident with learning units and a skills laboratory taught by cardiac, general thoracic and vascular surgeons. The second year is more traditional, with units on trauma, abdominal surgery, transplantation and research. The third through seventh years are devoted to cardiothoracic and vascular surgery.

This innovative approach to surgical training has generated unqualified enthusiasm among the new generation of medical students who have critiqued it. For the first time, prospective residents see an efficient, functional, and relevant curriculum for the entire seven year experience. Additional flexibility is built-in, as the resident is able to make decisions about the final two training years in thoracic surgery during year four of the program.

Curriculum Outline:

Integrated Seven-year Sequential Program in Cardiothoracic and Vascular Surgery

Year One

Unit 1: Vascular Surgery (four months)

Vascular Diagnostics

Vascular Radiology

Plastic Surgery

Vascular Surgery I

Endovascular Surgery I

Basic Skills Laboratory

Unit 2: General Thoracic Surgery (four months)

General Surgery

Pulmonary Diagnostics

General Thoracic Surgery I

Specialty Night Float

Trauma ICU

Basic Skills Laboratory

Unit 3: Cardiac Surgery (four months)

Cardiac Diagnostics

Cardiac Surgery I


Critical Care

Basic Skills Laboratory

Year Two

Vascular Surgery II / Vascular Research

Intro to Organ Transplantation

Intro to Abdominal Surgery

Trauma / Stroke Service

Basic Skills Laboratory

Year Three

Vascular Surgery III

Vascular Surgery IV: Interventional

Basic Skills Laboratory

Year Four

Cardiac Surgery II

Vascular Surgery V

Year Five

Chief Year: Vascular Surgery

Year Six

Cardiac Surgery III

Cardiac Surgery IV

General Thoracic Surgery II

General Thoracic Surgery III

Pediatric Cardiothoracic Surgery

Year Seven

Chief Year: Cardiothoracic Surgery

Endovascular Surgery

Basic Skills Laboratory

The Basic Skills Laboratory is a bi-monthly training and guided practice session developed by the Department of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery for support of resident teaching in clinical skills during postgraduate years one through three. The laboratory is directed by faculty member Mathew Van Deusen, MD, a graduate of our consortium's General Surgery and Thoracic Surgery residency programs. The faculty comprises surgeons and hospital staff from the consortium's programs in general surgery, vascular surgery and thoracic surgery. The laboratory also serves as a venue for training with new devices and techniques and is also available for remedial teaching throughout the residency period.

Curriculum Outline:

Traditional Two-Year Program in Thoracic Surgery

The traditional two-year Thoracic Surgery Residency Training Program offers a rich case mix of adult cardiac and general thoracic patients drawn from a network of affiliated clinical sites serving Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia. Residents may elect to concentrate in either cardiac surgery or general thoracic surgery but must meet all requirements for ABTS certification in the cardiothoracic surgery pathway.

Year One

Cardiac Surgery I (two months)

Cardiac Surgery II (four months)

General Thoracic Surgery I (two months)

General Thoracic Surgery II (two months)

Pediatric Cardiothoracic Surgery (two months)

Year Seven

Chief Year: Cardiothoracic Surgery

Cardiac Surgery III (six months)

General Thoracic Surgery III (six months)

Endovascular Surgery (integrated with cardiothoracic surgery training)

Competency Goals

  1. Create an organizational structure of academic, clinical and technical criteria to facilitate the education of trainees in thoracic surgery.

  2. Maintain educational criteria that are congruent with the aims of the American Board of Thoracic Surgery and are in compliance with the established requirements of the Residency Review Committee for Thoracic Surgery.

  3. Integrate principles of basic science with in-depth clinical experiences.

  4. Promote a broader understanding of the role of cardiovascular and general thoracic surgery and their interactions with other disciplines such as cardiology, pulmonary medicine, gastroenterology, diagnostic radiology and pediatrics.

  5. Facilitate the self-directed study of trainees via recommended readings and learning activities.

  6. Suggest learning experiences based on measurable objectives for the education of cardiovascular and thoracic surgeons.

  7. Guide the mechanism for trainees' progressive responsibility from initial patient care to complete patient management.

  8. Guide trainees to skillfully use research techniques in conducting investigations.

  9. Assist trainees in achieving professional leadership and management skills.

  10. Promote the understanding of the economic, legal and social challenges of contemporary and future practice in cardiovascular and thoracic surgery.
  11. Foster continuing education to promote lifelong individual initiative and creative scholarship.

  12. Suggest broad and diverse teaching methodologies to transmit knowledge, skills and attitudes from faculty to trainees.

Core Competencies:

The objectives of each unit of the curricula describe the learning activities that are to occur during the course of curriculum implementation. When these objectives have been met, the expected outcome is that core competencies, describing the abilities made possible by a professional education, can be performed. The competencies reflect the three domains of education, cognitive, psychomotor, and affective, and specify what the trainees should know, be able to do, or have an attitude about at the completion of thoracic surgery training. Each of the competencies listed below should be prefaced by the following statement:

"At the completion of training, the trainee can . . ."

  1. Make sound ethical and legal judgment appropriate for a qualified surgeon (Professionalism).
  2. Respect the cultural and religious needs of patients and their families, and provide surgical care in accordance with those needs (Professionalism).
  3. Manage disorders based on a thorough knowledge of basic and clinical science (Patient care; Medical knowledge).
  4. Utilize appropriate skill in those surgical techniques required of a qualified cardiovascular and thoracic surgeon (Patient care; Practice-based learning and improvement).
  5. Use critical thinking when making decisions affecting the life of a patient and the patient's family (Patient care; Medical knowledge).
  6. Collaborate effectively with colleagues and other health professionals (Practice-based learning and improvement; Interpersonal and communication skills).
  7. Teach and share knowledge with colleagues, trainees, students, and other health care providers (Interpersonal and communication skills).
  8. Teach patients and their families about the patient's health needs (Interpersonal and Communication skills; Patient care).
  9. Be committed to scholarly pursuits through the conduct and evaluation of research (Practice-based learning and improvement; Medical knowledge).
  10. Provide cost-effective care to surgical patients and families (Systems-based practice).
  11. Adapt and eventually direct complex programs and organizations (Systems-based practice).
  12. Value lifelong learning as a necessary prerequisite to maintaining surgical knowledge and skill (Practice-based learning and improvement; Medical knowledge)


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