CT Surgeon Shadow

Over the break, I had a chance to shadow a cardiothoracic surgeon for a day.  This surgeon was one of the partners at North Central Heart, also known as the Avera Heart Hospital of South Dakota.  


The experience was pretty cool.  The cardiothoracic surgeons and handful of interventional cardiologists that I had a chance to meet were receptive to students, and I learned a lot about cardiac pathologies.  


The visit was also disheartening for those interested in CT surgery.  Out of the group of surgeons, only one (out of four) would recommend this specialty to their son/daughter.  While all of them were attracted to the field based on their interests in cardiac diseases, acute patients, and surgical treatments, they weren’t sure if that was enough reason to pursue the field in today’s environment.  


Of course declining reimbursements was one of their main reasons.  But also, the lack of jobs.  Most of them believed that the thoracic surgeon colleges were training too many CT surgeons.  If they keep it up, the job problem will only worsen.  “How would you feel if you put in 10 years of post medical school training only to find out that you can’t get a job?”  


It was eye opening.  The surgeon that I was shadowing told me that he talked his own son out of becoming a CT surgeon.  Told him to be a neurosurgeon, ENT, urologist, or orthopod.  This field is extremely interesting to me since they deal with very sick patients, interesting pathologies, and surgical treatments.  But it’s scary that even the current cardio-surgeons here in South Dakota think their specialty is losing the “turf battle” to cardiologists, vascular surgeons, and interventional radiologists.