I am a senior medical student planning on going in to general surgery and practicing in a moderate sized city (~70k people), but would also like to do some medical missions. I currently do not plan on doing a fellowship after residency, and would like to go directly into practice. I have seen a growing trend of "rural programs” popping up including Mayo starting a rural track this year, Wisconsin has one rural spot, and Gundersen is another notable program. For many of these programs you leave your primary training hospital during PGY3-4 and go train rural hospital, you may also spend more time doing OB/GYN cases or other surgical specialties. How do you think this affects the preparedness of the residents leaving these programs vs a community program with a high case load or university program? Most of these programs advertise all the “extra” skills acquired from participating in their rural tracks but don’t discuss what that means you will miss.
Great question. I have no personal experience with rural track surgical programs. From what I have read, most residents who go this route emerge satisfied.
I think you need to speak to a few residents who have done it and see if they feel they missed anything. It probably wouldn't be too hard to get some names from coordinators in programs that have the rural option.
My concern for your situation is that if you plan to practice in a city of about 70,000, it is highly unlikely that you will be doing C-sections, orthopedics, or G.I. endoscopy. This would negate much of the value of doing a rural track. I have a few former residents who practice in small towns and do C-sections and endoscopies, but those locations have fewer than 10,000 people. My program provided a decent endoscopy experience, but since we had an OB/GYN residency, I think my graduates learned to do C-sections after they left the program.
Since you are planning to practice in a community hospital, you may want to consider training in a busy community hospital residency program. The way things are going in general surgery, case volume is becoming more and more important. As a general surgeon in a city of 70,000, you will probably not be doing big cases such as Whipples and major vascular surgery anyway.
Can any of my readers offer you more advice?