Reichel JL, Peirson RP, and Berg D. Teaching and evaluation of surgical skills in dermatology: results of a survey. Arch Dermatol.2004 Nov;140(11):1365-9.

PMID: 15545546


To assess how the surgical skills of residents are taught and evaluated within dermatology residency programs in the United States; to assess which surgical techniques training directors and residents consider important for residents to perform or at least understand by the end of residency training.

A 126-question survey was sent to all 106 of the US dermatology residency programs accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education. Contact was initially made via e-mail. Surveys were addressed to the program director, surgical training director, and chief resident of each program. A follow-up survey was mailed to nonresponders.

Ninety-five surveys were returned representing 71 (67%) of 106 programs. Eighty-nine percent of programs (n=63) reported having a formal curriculum in dermatologic surgery. Among programs represented, 97% (n=69) taught surgical skills in the procedure room, 84% (n=57) used pigs' feet, and fewer than 10% (n=6) used human cadavers. Ninety-four percent of programs (n=61) scheduled surgical lectures; two thirds (n=41) formally assigned surgical reading, and over half (n=36) used Web-based lectures to teach skills. To assess training, most programs (86%; n=50) used subjective global evaluation at the end of a surgery rotation. Fewer than 30% (n=15) discussed specific objectives prior to the rotation. Only about 25% of programs (n=17) reported the use of written or oral examinations to assess resident surgery skills. Traditional biopsy and simple surgical procedures were reported as most important to know and perform. Interest by both faculty members and residents in more advanced surgical techniques was more limited and variable. Cosmetic surgery techniques were most likely to be viewed as unimportant.

Most dermatology programs teach surgical skills by traditional apprenticeship methods supplemented by work in pigs' feet laboratory classes and regularly scheduled lectures. Skill assessment is mainly done through subjective means. Almost all respondents thought that basic biopsy and excisional skills were essential for residents to know and perform. More complex surgical techniques and the use of lasers were considered less important. Cosmetic techniques were those most frequently viewed as unimportant.