Future Surgical Leaders Program Rolls Out: First-of-its-kind residency training program in the U.S.

Surgical Leadership Program

Cynthia Talley, MDWhen Cynthia Talley, M.D. FACS, associate professor and vice chair of Education in the Department of Surgery, was selected to participate in the American College of Surgeons (ACS) Certificate in Applied Surgical Education Leadership (CASEL) program, she had a singular goal in mind: to develop an innovative surgical leadership program for trainees.

“Surgical residency curriculum consists largely of patient care and surgical skills,” said Talley. “Training programs don’t traditionally provide the much-needed tools to empower trainees in key leadership skills: collaborating across disciplines, navigating difficult situations, developing effective communication skills, or incorporating diversity and inclusion into their practice.”

Over the past year, Talley worked closely with her CASEL mentor, John Mellinger, M.D. FACS, chair of General Surgery at Southern Illinois University and chair of the American Board of Surgery (ABS), to develop a leadership program for residents in the MUSC Department of Surgery.

When building the program, the first step was to identify stakeholders and develop a needs-assessment survey. Luckily,development of leadership domains and competencies had recently been validated by the Master in Health Administration (MHA) curriculum director, Abby Swanson Kazley, Ph.D., professor in the College of Health Professions. Talley was able to collaborate with Kazley to build on the MHA needs assessment and customize the survey to surgical trainees.

The survey was delivered to 240 people with a 360-degree perspective. The respondents were grouped into 3 weighted super-groups: Attendings and Recent Graduates (44 of 74, 59% response), Residents and Fellows (42 of 72, 58% response), and Multi-Disciplinary (44 of 95, 46% response) including APPs, Students, Administrative Staff, and Nurses. The importance of each competency was compared among groups and overall importance was defined as >75% important and very important responses.

With important competencies selected, a heat map for PGY delivery was created. A curriculum for each PGY was created with competencies and subtopics. Program directors and resident stakeholders for each PGY and program assisted with educational design.

The program was introduced by Grand Rounds with feedback solicited. Speakers were then identified by stakeholders.

“Our program is unique to residency training programs throughout the country,” said Talley. “The ACS does offer a weekend-long course for residents and surgical leaders, but to my knowledge we are the only academic residency program offering a full five-year program. Plus, we offer one-year programs for our fellows and preliminary interns.”

She believes the innovative program will have sweeping downstream effects, including improved patient satisfaction and reduced medical malpractice claims. Talley says these areas are not difficult to measure. “For instance, we can measure patient satisfaction and incident reports and track progress over time.”

The plan is to measure both short- and long-term outcomes and provide immediate feedback to the trainees. The program includes ten sessions or less a year for each PGY group. Due to COVID restrictions, most sessions are currently virtual. These sessions involve role playing and case scenarios to provide “hands-on” experiential workshop learning. All trainees at the end of the program with a 75 percent attendance will be awarded a Future Surgical Leadership certificate of completion.

So far, the sessions have received rave reviews by the residents and faculty moderators. After the initial deployment, assessment, and fine tuning, Talley would like to develop regional education collaboratives to expand the program beyond the walls of MUSC residency education.

To help support the Future Surgical Leaders Program, visit https://connect2.musc.edu/surgery