What Is a Surgery Fellowship?

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  • Written By: C.B. Fox
  • Edited By: Susan Barwick
  • Last Modified Date: 01 December 2019
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A surgery fellowship, often called a surgical fellowship, is an intensive, hands-on training program that a surgeon can chose to undertake. This training is completed after a surgeon has finished a residency program. After completing a surgery fellowship, a surgeon is considered an expert in a particular field of surgery.

Not all surgeons take a surgery fellowship. The fellowship programs are designed to offer further education to a surgeon who wishes to become an expert in a specific area of surgery. It is possible for a surgeon to be a generalist, for which a license will be granted at the end of the surgeon’s residency period. This license allows the surgeon to practice without the direct supervision of a more experienced doctor. At the end of a fellowship period, a surgeon will be granted a further accreditation, stating that the he or she is an expert in the field that the surgery fellowship was completed in.

There are many different fields in which a surgeon can get a surgery fellowship. Typical programs include pediatric surgery, orthopedic surgery, and neurosurgery. In order to get a fellowship in one of these, or in another program, a surgeon needs to have completed specialized residency training that gives them the knowledge needed to begin the surgery fellowship.


Applying for a surgery fellowship is a competitive process, and not all surgeons who apply will be accepted into a program. These programs, which are run out of universities and hospitals, require letters of recommendation from doctors who have worked with the applicant, strong performance in medical school and on medical board examinations, and the surgeon’s demonstration that he or she will perform well in a fellowship program. Though it is not a requirement of fellowship programs, preference is often given to surgeons who have published articles in medical journals, an indication that the surgeon is up-to-date with the latest practices and also that he or she is contributing to the academic dialogue surrounding surgical practice.

A surgeon participating in a surgery fellowship is a fully licensed doctor who sees patients and performs surgery. This is always done under the supervision of an experienced surgeon, who acts as a mentor to the less experienced surgeon. Though many procedures are performed by the less experienced surgeon, the mentor is close by and ready to intervene if there is a problem or to consult with the fellow, who may be unsure about how to proceed.


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