General Surgery

Clinical Environment

The Spectrum Health/Michigan State University General Surgery Program provides residents a diverse surgical experience while rotating at the following institutions:

The Spectrum Health Butterworth campus, located near downtown Grand Rapids, is a tertiary care facility with 650 beds and draws patients from a large region of over one million people. It includes Butterworth Hospital, the DeVos Children’s Hospital, Meijer Heart Center, and Lemmen-Holton Cancer Pavilion providing a full continuum of elective and acute patient care for adults and pediatrics in all specialties. Services include a Level I trauma center with air transport (AeroMed).

The opening of the new Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital on 1-11-11 marks a new era of children’s health care in West Michigan and represents more than four decades of steady progress in improving pediatric care and bringing pediatric specialists to the region. There are nearly 200 pediatric physicians in more than 40 pediatric specialties.

Spectrum Health Blodgett Hospital in East Grand Rapids, Michigan, has a long tradition of providing high quality and compassionate, personalized medical care. Since 1846, Blodgett Hospital has earned a reputation for excellence as a community and teaching hospital. We provide patient-focused inpatient and outpatient services for medical, surgical and specialty care.

Mercy Health Saint Mary’s is an integrated network of health care excellence. Their commitment to offer the latest technology and skilled physicians in a holistic, patient-centered environment has made them a progressive leader in cancer care, neuroscience, orthopedics, diabetes and endocrine care, kidney transplants, and integrative health care. They blend these specialty services with primary care offered through Advantage Health Physicians.

Program Focus

This is a 5 year program. The curriculum for the Spectrum Health/MSU general surgery program places a high priority on the educational needs of the resident in three main areas: clinical, academic, and research.

I. Hands-on Clinical Experience
Residents progress through a rotation schedule over five years carefully planned to provide operative experience with progressive responsibility in all areas of general surgery as well as endoscopy, critical care, and trauma. An outstanding experience in endocrine, oncologic, and vascular surgery is offered along with exceptional opportunities in the colorectal, thoracic, and pediatric surgical sub-specialties.

Every effort is made to maximize resident education, not service needs. Goals and objectives are provided at the onset of every rotation. The program director, assistant directors, and surgical teaching faculty regularly review each resident’s performance and the overall educational experience of the program. Exceptional training is the result, in a humane academic environment that maintains the safety, successful outcome, and compassionate care of the patient as its central focus. Graduating residents completing the residency perform around 1100 cases, with about 300 of those during their 5th year as the chief surgical resident.

II. Focus on Academics
A well prepared didactic schedule consists of weekly Core General Surgery Conferences that include morbidity and mortality discussions, advanced certifying examination simulation, grand rounds, journal/textbook review and others. Subsequent special didactic hours include regular Chief resident quizzes, mock oral board practice sessions, and a surgical skills lab course at the beginning of each academic year. All of this occurs during a protected educational time apart from clinical responsibilities. Residents are exposed to the expertise of visiting professors as part of a well-established quarterly program that invites leaders in various areas of surgery to Grand Rapids. Journal Clubs are designed to optimize the residents’ skills at critically evaluating the medical literature. Multidisciplinary breast care conferences, research conferences, multidisciplinary GI tumor board, and weekly ward teaching rounds with designated faculty at each hospital round out the academic experience for the resident.

Commitment to education in a stimulating training environment contributes to the very successful pass rate near 100% among graduating residents on both the Qualifying and Certifying Examinations for the American Board of Surgery over the past two decades. In the past 3 years, all of our graduates have passed both the Qualifying and Certifying Examination with 100% pass rate on the first attempt.

III. Research and Scholarly Activities

Residents are required to submit two scholarly/research projects over the course of their 5 year training. Excellent support is provided through an abundance of resources for these endeavors. There is a monthly Research Conference attended by residents and surgical teaching faculty. This forum provides residents with helpful didactics in surgical research and design as well as opportunities for collaborative feedback on their research ideas and projects. The research didactics program is enhanced by the contributions of Alan Davis, PhD, who serves as the Director of the GME Research Department and is the author of the book chapter on surgical research design in a major surgical basic science text (O’Leary). Additional basic science research exposure is available at the Van Andel Research Institute, a world class facility adjacent to the downtown Spectrum Health Butterworth campus.

The GME Research Department provides support to Spectrum Health residents and faculty in all areas of research and scholarly activity (e.g., quality, educational, surveys).  To access more details, including templates (e.g., study protocol, poster), help request forms and other contact information, visit Spectrum Health GME Research.


Didactic for our program is highly structured, well-organized and thought out.  Program Director and administration is dedicated to offer a highly-individualized approach to resident education.  Most didactics occur on Wednesday mornings which is protected from clinical duties.  Some of the conferences that occur on Wednesdays include M&M, Journal club, mock oral examinations, ABSITE-based lecture series given by residents and Grand Rounds.

Simulation and Skills Labs

We have a very structured simulation and skills lab curriculum.  Most skills labs are scheduled in the fall of our academic year and the level of training varies between each postgraduate year group.

PGY-1:  knot tying, suturing labs

PGY-2:  basic laparoscopy labs

PGY-3:  cadaver lab

PGY-4:  advanced laparoscopic/robotic skills labs

PGY-5:  business of medicine/finance course

All of these “labs” are mentored by at least one dedicated faculty.  Resident performance during these labs are graded and recorded.  We have many laparoscopic simulators that are available at the Spectrum Health Office of Medical Education and each hospital where our residents rotate.  We have recently purchased an endoscopy simulation model for our program in addition to our endoscopy simulation model/program.

Advanced Certifying Examination Simulation (ACES) curriculum is held weekly during our dedicated Wednesday morning academic conferences.  During this hour, two residents will undergo mock oral examination scenarios by two surgical faculty.  Meaningful feedback is given at the conclusion of each simulation, including feedback on examination taking skills and content evaluation.

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All applications are accepted through ERAS. Please see the For Applicants section of your preferred program for additional details.

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