Training Program for Foreign Medical Graduates Achieves International Improvements in Surgical Oncology

Training foreign medical graduates in surgical oncology can improve clinical cancer care and research in countries outside of the United States. The Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center International General Surgical Oncology Fellowship has trained foreign surgeons in surgical oncology and academic practice.1

Over 20 years, 39 international medical graduates took part in the International General Surgical Oncology Fellowship to train in surgical oncology. More than half of the fellows (n = 21, 54%) were from countries in which English is not the primary language.

"This fellowship training program is more than just teaching trainees technical aspects of operations," said Murray F. Brennan, MD, FACS, vice president for international programs, Benno C. Schmidt Chair in Clinical Oncology, and director of the Bobst International Center at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York City, and lead author of the study.

"There is a heavy emphasis on these surgeons becoming good educators, learning about databases, and how to evaluate surgical outcomes."

More graduates were from Europe (n = 17, 43%) than any other continent. The majority of graduates (n = 31, 80%) returned to their countries of origin. Just 5 graduates (13%) were from Latin America, and 3 (8%) were women.

“Underrepresentation of women in the fellowship reflects the former status of a male-dominated specialty worldwide, which is turning towards being more attractive and inclusive, with no distinction of gender or life roles,” explained the authors.

Surveys were sent to 34 former fellows to examine education, research, and current context of surgical practice. The survey response rate was 73% (n = 25). From the responders, 17 (68%) work in an academic setting, and 13 (52%) work in surgical oncology as their primary clinical practice.

“Improving cancer prevention, early diagnosis, and support of research relevant to regional needs, is required to overcome the challenges of cancer. Education plays a major role in order to seize the myths of cancer control: unnecessary, unaffordable, unattainable, inappropriate. These can be confronted with innovation, global solidarity and building long term infrastructure and research capacity,” concluded the researchers.

“The Academic global surgical community has a moral responsibility to decrease the disparities in surgical oncology care. More must be done to break the cycle of inequality.”


1. Dominguez-Rosado I, Moutinho V Jr, DeMatteo RP, Kingham TP, D'Angelica M, Brennan MF. Outcomes of the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center International General Surgical Oncology Fellowship [published online ahead of print March 16, 2016]. J Am Coll Surg. doi:10.1016/j.jamcollsurg.2016.01.049.

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