Surgical Residency Program

Why apply to the Surgical Residency Program at Massachusetts General Hospital?

The Mass General Surgical Residency Program will prepare you to become an outstanding surgeon, with an expert team of faculty and a diverse curriculum that includes complex surgical cases. Our program will challenge you to be your best, while providing a robust clinical, didactic and simulation educational program.

Do residents get any community hospital experience during the program?

Yes. Our residency program includes operative rotations at Salem Hospital and Newton-Wellesley Hospital. Each rotation will allow you to perform operations and take care of patients with both low- and high-acuity illnesses requiring treatment from multiple specialties. We operate with private surgeons, as well as academic faculty, and work with Tufts Medical School students (at Newton-Wellesley Hospital) and Harvard students (at Mass General)

What is the didactic curriculum like?

Our program comprises a strong didactic curriculum that includes:

  • An intern orientation (which runs through the summer)
  • Department-wide conferences, such as Surgical Grand Rounds and Morbidity and Mortality (M&M) Conferences
  • A core curriculum (held on Thursdays from 10:00 am-11:00 am) 
  • Localized teaching, where small teams each have a faculty team leader who coordinates readings and didactics on a particular service
  • A simulation curriculum coordinated with didactics (from PGY-1 through PGY-5). View simulation curriculum map
Are there any elective rotations?

Yes. A one-month elective is built into the PGY-4 year. Past residents have chosen rotations at Mass General, as well as off-site locations—both domestic and international. If you are interested in global health, the Mass General Department of Surgery offers an array of international opportunities.

Is research required of all residents?

No. As in many academic programs, a two-year research period is offered if you would like to pursue research. You may choose a research period between your second and third or third and fourth clinical years to pursue research, another advanced degree or something else of your choosing. About three quarters of each resident class choose to take a research period of some type. Many of our residents are also involved in outcomes research and global health initiatives. Recent elective examples, in addition to traditional bench and outcomes-related research, include:

  • A clinical fellowship in surgical critical care
  • A Master of Public Health degree
  • A fellowship in surgical education
  • A global surgery elective or fellowship  
What types of research opportunities are available at Mass General?

Since 1994, Mass General has been awarded the most research funding of any independent hospital by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), with more than 700 researchers receiving more than $400 million in NIH funding in fiscal year 2013. Explore research at Mass General

Mass General’s Department of Surgery has the largest research program among all U.S. hospital surgery departments. More than 150 staff members carry out basic science, outcomes, clinical and medical education research backed by more than $50 million in annual funding. At present, the Mass General Department of Surgery has four longstanding NIH training grants in the following areas: 

  • Burns and trauma research (Ronald Tompkins, MD, Program Director)
  • Gastrointestinal surgery (Richard Hodin, MD, Program Director)
  • Transplant biology (David Sachs, MD, Program Director) 
  • Surgical oncology (Kenneth Tanabe, MD, Program Director)

Life as a Mass General Resident

Where do most residents live?

Most residents live within walking distance of Mass General, either in Beacon Hill or the West End neighborhoods. Within the immediate walking radius of Mass General, rents tend to be higher (approximately $1,500-$2,300 per month for a studio or one-bedroom), but you are in a terrific location. Beacon Hill tends to feel more charming and removed from the hospital, but the West End gives you a few more amenities and more square feet for your dollar. Some residents choose to live in Back Bay or the North End (which is a little farther away, but still within walking distance). If you don't mind driving or bicycling to work, Cambridge, Charlestown, the South End or Fenway are other good options.

Surgical residents fishing on Cape Cod
Outdoor activities of our residents include fishing trips on Cape Cod.
The cost of living in Boston sounds high. Can you live on a resident’s salary?

Absolutely. While the cost of living in Boston is higher than some other cities, it’s a spectacular city from almost any point of view—whether you are interested in the arts and culture, sports, nature or shopping. Partners HealthCare (Mass General’s parent company) works to make it easier for residents to afford living here. We have one of the highest resident salary scales in the U.S. and a program called the Lease Guarantee Program, which guarantees security deposit and/or last month's rent with certain pre-approved landlords.

What are some outdoor activities to do in and around Boston?

In the city, some favorite outdoor things to do everyday include running or biking along the Charles River Esplanade, as well as canoeing, kayaking or sailing on the Charles River. There is also hiking and camping in the White Mountains of New Hampshire and the Green Mountains of Vermont in the summer and fall, and snowshoeing/downhill skiing in the winter. A number of great beaches are close by, including those on the North Shore and Cape Cod. Each summer, our program sponsors a faculty-resident baseball game on the Esplanade, and there are group excursions to faculty members’ homes in New Hampshire in the winter, as well as a fishing trip on Cape Cod in the summer. Other social events, ski trips and cocktail parties take place throughout the year. Learn more about activities in and around Boston

Do you need an automobile as a Mass General resident?

No, but it is strongly recommended. As mentioned above, you will have rotations at both Newton-Wellesley Hospital and Salem Hospital. While there is public transportation to Newton-Wellesley Hospital, it doesn’t run at all hours and there is less convenient public transportation available to Salem Hospital. Residents without cars often carpool or rent a car during these months.


Application Process

Do I need to do an elective clerkship at Mass General to be considered for an interview?

No. A fourth-year elective at Mass General, as elsewhere, helps students test whether they like the environment and whether they might be a good fit for the program, and vice versa, but most candidates invited have not done sub-internships here.

Is there a cut-off score that you use to determine whom to invite to an interview?

No, however we are looking for the best and brightest applicants from each school. The better you perform—in United States Medical Licensing Examination® (USMLE) scores as well as grades—the better chance you have of being invited to interview. Conversely, those applicants whose scores are below the national averages (of all those pursuing surgery) are less likely to be extended an invitation.

What is a typical interview day like?

The interview days are carefully planned to make sure you get to learn as much as possible about our program. We also want to have ample time to get to know you. We start early (6:30 am) and the day typically runs until 3:00 pm or 4:00 pm in the afternoon.

We’ve made some changes based on feedback from recent interviewees, but an important thing to remember is that the day is long and full because you’ll meet many faculty members and most of the residents throughout the following activities:

  • Pre-interview day dinner. This is your chance to meet the current surgery residents (no faculty) for a buffet dinner at the Liberty Hotel
  • Breakfast with the division chiefs. This is an opportunity to meet our division chiefs and ask questions. If you have a particular specialty in mind, this can be especially helpful
  • Meeting with Keith Lillemoe, MD, Department Chair
  • Meeting with John Mullen, MD, Program Director
  • Interview with one of our five associate program directors
  • Two panel interviews with five to six faculty members and one senior resident
  • Lunch with faculty and residents
  • A tour of the hospital led by current residents
  • Research information sessions. In between your interviews, our residents who are doing research will be in one of the conference rooms talking about their projects and the elective opportunities available to you
I’ve heard stories about the Mass General “panel interview.” How does this work?

The panel interview is a long-standing tradition at Mass General, but more than that, we feel it is a very effective way to allow a number of faculty to get to meet and know each applicant, and vice versa. 

Keep in mind that through the interview process, you are selecting a program where you plan to spend the next five to seven years of your life. That’s a long time! The goal of the interview process should be to find a program where both you and the program feel you are a good “fit”. The panel interview, like the search committees used to hire top-level executives, has each applicant meet with a panel that includes five to six members of the faculty and one senior resident. Questions range from decision making scenarios (clinical or otherwise), asking the applicant details of their research, education, or life experiences, to simple small talk. The purpose is to see what the applicant is like: how you think, what your values are, and how you might fit into the program.

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