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Becoming a Surgeon? Exploring Surgical Specialties to Make the Right Decision

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Whether you are a first-year or third-year medical student, choosing the right medical specialty is a major decision of every medical students’ life. When it comes to choosing a career, most students choose a specialty they genuinely enjoy and that offers lucrative career options. Gaining some clinical exposure and attending different kinds of medical service trips will help you make a well-informed decision.

Students who have been exposed to many specialties during summer break, gap year or before getting into a Caribbean medical school find it easier to decide on the right medical specialty. In addition, shadowing a physician to gaining clinical experience in your preferred specialty can also help you choose a competitive specialty.

Surgery is a competitive and interesting medical specialty that allows you to perform life-saving procedures in the operating room to improve and save patients’ lives. Being a surgeon, you are responsible for discovering the cause of a variety of complex health issues, performing surgeries, and providing your patients with the best possible care before, during and after surgery. Medicine is a constantly evolving field; being a surgeon, you will gain comprehensive surgical training and surgical practice so that patients get the best possible care.

If you are interested in pursuing a career in surgery, here is a detailed guide on what the surgery specialty entails and the types of surgery that would best suit you.

Education and Training Requirements

To become a competent surgeon, a longer, more arduous training period is required than other specialties such as medicine, pediatrics, psychiatry or cardiology. Medical students who are interested in becoming a surgeon are required to apply to a surgical residency program after completing a degree from a Caribbean medical school. Prospective surgeons have to complete five years of training if they want to pursue a surgical career. A surgical residency starts in the first year of residency, followed by four years of additional surgical training. Once you have completed a residency, you can practice independently as a general surgeon. Make sure you must be board certified in general surgery within seven academic years.

Types of Surgical Specialties

Surgery is a diverse field and covers several areas of specialization. Surgeons can pursue different subspecialties after completing their initial surgery residency. For instance, if you want to become a pediatric surgeon, you need to complete additional education in a pediatric heart transplant surgery. Similarly, if you want to become a cardiac surgeon, you are required to practice different types of heart surgeries such as bypass surgery, heart valve repairs, and more.

When it comes to choosing surgery as a career, it is important to know different types of subspecialties so that you can make an informed decision.

  • General Surgery
  • Bariatric Surgery
  • Cardiac and Cardiothoracic Surgery
  • Colon and Rectal Surgery
  • Gynecology and Obstetrics surgery
  • Gynecology Oncology
  • Maxillofacial Surgery
  • Neurosurgery
  • Oncology
  • Oral Surgery
  • Orthopedic Surgery
  • Otolaryngology
  • Pediatric Surgery
  • Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery
  • Podiatry
  • Thoracic surgery
  • Transplant surgery
  • Trauma surgery
  • Urology

General Surgery

General surgery is a discipline that mainly focuses on the surgical treatment of common illnesses of the alimentary tract, abdominal contents, breast, skin, soft tissues, and endocrine system. Being a general surgeon, you are responsible to diagnose, treat, and manage a broad spectrum of diseases that require nonoperative, elective and emergency surgical treatment.  General surgeons can operate common abdominal issues such as gall bladder stones, hernia, appendicitis, stomach, and intestinal issues. They can treat cancers, burns and perform surgical procedures on multiple areas of the body.

Bariatric Surgery

Bariatric surgery is a type of medicine that involves treatment and prevention of obesity with surgery. To specialize in bariatric surgery, you are required to complete additional training after completing a residency in general surgery, internal medicine, or family medicine. This advanced medical training prepares you to perform different types of weight loss surgeries such as sleeve gastrectomy, vertical banded gastroplasty, gastric bypass surgery and more.

Cardiac Surgery

Cardiac surgery is the type of surgery that deals with heart-related problems with surgical procedures. Pediatric cardiac surgeons are responsible for performing surgeries on newborns and infants to treat congenital issues. While cardiothoracic surgeon treats common ailments associated with heart, chest, and lungs. Cardiac surgeons can perform heart and lung transplant procedures and can also treat traumatic injuries.

Gynecology and Obstetrics Surgery

Obstetrics and gynecology surgery involves treatment of a variety of conditions related to female reproductive organs through surgical procedures. If you want to specialize in obstetrics and gynecology, you are required to complete four years of residency program in areas including pregnancy, labor, delivery, preconception and postpartum care and more. You are responsible for performing a variety of surgical procedures, including cervical excision, cystoscopy, dilation and curettage, pelvic laparoscopy and more.


Neurosurgeons are responsible for treating ailments related to the central nervous system disorders, trauma, tumors, infections, stroke, and degenerative spinal disorders. To become a board-certified neurosurgeon, you are required to complete additional fellowship to specialize in a specific area of neurosurgery.

Orthopedic Surgery

It is a branch of surgery that includes surgical treatment of joints, bones, ligaments, and tendons. To become an orthopedic surgeon, you are required to complete additional two years of specialty fellowship training in orthopedics. Orthopedic surgeons are responsible for performing surgical procedures including hip and knee replacement, repair of traumatic injuries, and broken bones.

Oral Surgery

An oral surgeon or dental surgeon has special knowledge to perform surgical procedures on the mouth, teeth, jaws, and face. Oral and maxillofacial surgeons gain four years of training in a dental school and complete four to six additional years of surgical training. They are trained to perform dental implants, surgical repair of a cleft lip and cleft palate, treat facial injury and trauma, perform corrective jaw surgery, facial cosmetic surgery, and tooth extraction.

Pediatric Surgery

A pediatric surgeon has the experience and qualification to operate on infants, children and young adults with common and complex surgical needs. To become a pediatric surgeon, nine years of additional training (residency program in general surgery and pediatric surgery fellowship) is required after medical school. Pediatric surgeons can diagnose, treat, and manage a variety of children’s surgical needs including congenital disabilities, transplantation, endoscopic procedures, and other serious injuries.

Whether you want to become an orthopedic surgeon, plastic surgeon, general surgeon or pediatric surgeon, make sure you are dedicated to your specialty and really love it.

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