People ask me frequently, “what exactly is a general surgeon?” I realize the name itself is not very self explanatory. In a nutshell, a general surgeon can do operations on almost every part of the body. For many surgeons general surgery includes the abdomen (the stomach, intestines, colon), breasts, thyroid, and masses throughout the superficial body. Some common examples include gallbladder removal, appendix, hernia repairs, intestine removal and lipoma (fatty tumor) removal.
The training of the general surgeon includes 5 years of residency after medical school. Over the course of our training, we rotate through multiple surgical areas of the body. As we learn the scope of the many surgical areas, we are tested and trained in all of the areas of the surgery. Some surgeons get a penchant for a specialty, and choose to follow up with additional training, called a fellowship A fellowship is specific years of training to narrow learning to one area of the body. Once a surgeon is trained in that region, that becomes their scope of practice. Areas that offer fellowship training are: colon/rectal, heart/lungs, transplant, plastic surgery, liver/pancreas/biliary, cancer, or vascular surgery. Each fellowship can last from 1-3 years.
Here is where surgery gets confusing-because a general surgeon is trained on those areas too, both general surgeons and fellowship trained surgeons operate on all areas.
No two general surgeons will perform all the same surgeries. Most narrow their focus based on preference and the specialties available in their region. I have narrowed my scope to the surgeries I find most gratifying. For instance, the intricacy of vascular and cancer surgery does not entice me, but I thrive removing gallbladders, appendix, colons, and fixing hernias. Also, I have two specific areas that I dedicate a great amount of time in my practice, that is wound care and chronic nausea.