Background: The authors aimed to differentiate between combined/integrated and independent (traditional) methods of plastic surgery training with regard to quality of trainees, caliber of graduates, and practice or career outcomes once graduated.
Methods: To compare combined/integrated with independent residency program training, the authors conducted a Web-based survey of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons members looking at their experience and practice outcomes (n = 1056) and interviews of plastic surgery faculty looking at the quality of trainees (n = 72). The member survey evaluated background information, research credentials, pathway satisfaction, postgraduation activities, current practice, and academic affiliation. Faculty teacher interviews focused on knowledge base, diagnostic and treatment judgment, technical abilities, research capabilities, and prediction of future career success.
Results: The member survey showed no difference (p > 0.05) between combined/integrated and independent trainees in practice type (cosmetic/reconstructive), practice volume, or academic achievements. Combined/integrated trained surgeons are three times more likely to recommend their training pathway and two times more likely to enter fellowship after residency. Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society membership correlated with a greater likelihood of having an academic practice at 5 and 10 years or more and higher professorship titles. Faculty evaluations showed that combined/integrated residents were superior in knowledge (49 percent versus 32 percent) but that independent residents were superior in technical ability (51 percent versus 20 percent) and research (57 percent versus 19 percent). Most faculty were unable to choose a pathway producing superior residents.
Conclusions: Regarding future practice outcomes, there was not a superior training pathway. Regarding quality of trainees, there were differences in faculty evaluations, but there was no consensus on a better pathway.