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The Impending Shortage and the Estimated Cost of Training the Future Surgical Workforce

Williams, Thomas E. Jr MD, PhD, FACS*; Satiani, Bhagwan MD, MBA, FACS*; Thomas, Andrew MD, MBA; Ellison, E Christopher MD, FACS*

doi: 10.1097/SLA.0b013e3181b6c90b
Original Articles

Objectives: To estimate the workforce needed by 2030 in 7 surgical specialties to serve a population of 364 million people and to quantify the cost associated with training additional surgeons.

Materials and Methods: A review of the certificates granted in otolaryngology, orthopedic surgery, thoracic surgery, obstetrics and gynecology, neurosurgery, urology, and general surgery was conducted. Using a population-based algorithm, we extended the results of Richard Cooper's pioneering work to these fields of surgery. The assumptions were unchanged physician to population ratio, 30 years in practice from completion of residency to retirement, and no revision of the Balanced Budget Act of 1997, and therefore no additional residency positions offered. Per resident expenses were estimated annually at $80,000, including salaries, benefits, and other direct medical education costs.

Results/Conclusions: (1) There will not be enough surgeons in the 7 surgical specialties studied. (2) We will have to train more than 100,000 surgeons by 2030 to maintain access for our citizens at an annual cost of almost $2 Billion and total cost of about $37 billion. (3) To train the extra needed surgical workforce will cost an additional $10 Billion. (4) To do this, the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 must be revised to permit more residents to be trained in the United States or other alternatives explored.

It is anticipated that 100,000 more surgeons in 7 surgical specialties will be needed by 2030 at an additional training cost of $10 billion.

From the *Department of Surgery and †Department of Medicine, The Ohio State University College of Medicine, Columbus, Ohio.

Presented at the 129th Annual Meeting of the American Surgical Association, April 23–25th, 2009, Indian Wells, CA.

Reprints: Thomas E. Williams, MD, PhD, Doan Hall, Room N-827, Ohio State University Medical Center, 410 West Tenth Ave. Columbus, OH 43210. E-mail:

© 2009 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.