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What are the steps needed to become a cardiac surgeon?

How many years of residency?
Required major in college?
Best college?
Will Sophie Davis Biomedical School For Medicine be a college option for this career?

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Midwest’s Answer

Hi Omesha! Great question and one with which I am very familiar. I want to clarify a couple points mentioned in previous answers. General surgery is 5 years, not 4, and could be up to 7 years in programs that require 2 years of research, which may be optional or required depending on the institution. In addition, general surgery is not required to become a cardiac surgeon, but is part of the one of the pathways to becoming a cardiac surgeon.

There are two main pathways to becoming a cardiac surgeon:

1) Traditional pathway
-Medical school
-5 years general surgery residency (+0-2 years of research time)
-2-3 years cardiothoracic surgery residency (some programs are 2 years, others are 3)
-0-1 years specialty fellowship (e.g., aortic surgery, heart/lung transplant, and others)

2) Integrated pathway
-Medical school
-6 years of integrated cardiothoracic surgery residency (+0-2 years of research time)
-0-1 years specialty fellowship (e.g., aortic surgery, heart/lung transplant, and others)

The total length of training will largely depend on the type of practice you enter, but will generally take 6-10 years after medical school, which aligns with most every other medical and surgical subspecialty length of training.

There is not a specific major in college that is required and in fact, you can choose any major which attracts you and in which you will do well. There are required courses that you must take in order to be a competitive applicant for medical school, but specific to cardiac surgery, you will be evaluated based on how well you do in medical school and the extent of your exposure, experience, and commitment to cardiac surgery, if you were to choose that path.

There is not one best college for this, so you should consider geography, proximity to family and friends, premedical programs, cost, weather/climate, and all other factors impacting living for the time you are in college. It appears the Sophie David Biomedical School for Medicine has a joint BS/MD 7 year program which yes, would be a viable option for you to pursue and do well in and then matriculate to either an integrated cardiothoracic surgery residency or a general surgery residency along the traditional pathway. Another option is to earn a BS degree and then apply and attend medical school elsewhere. This is up to you and your personal situation!

Please let me know if you have any follow up questions

Midwest recommends the following next steps:

Gain exposure to cardiac surgery and other areas of interest, beginning now!
Focus on academic excellence to best position yourself for college and medical school
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Audrey’s Answer

Hi Omesha! I am not pursuing medical school, but I have heavily considered it and have become pretty familiar with the process. I hope I can clear some things up for you.

In total, becoming a cardiac surgeon takes about 15 years. It requires an undergraduate degree (4 years), medical school (4 years), general surgery residency (4 years), and cardiothoracic surgery residency (3 years).

One misconception I held going into college was that pre-med was a major. Pre-med is not a major, but a track; this means you can pick any major and be a pre-med student. Different medical schools require different prerequisite courses to apply, but a general idea is: biology, general (inorganic) chemistry, organic chemistry, and physics. Most medical schools require each course be completed alongside a lab. Therefore, many pre-med students try to pick a major in which these courses are already required. For example, if a medical school I'm interested in requires 8 credit hours of anatomy/physiology with lab and those courses are already required to get a degree in biology, I'd kill two birds with one stone by majoring in biology. Otherwise, I would need to add those courses in as elective courses (courses you get to choose) or add them on. This is why getting into medical school with a degree other than biology or a related science is extra difficult, because you must add prerequisite courses on top of what is required for your chosen degree. As such, popular pre-med majors are things such as biology, cellular and molecular biology, biochemistry, neuroscience, and physiology (I'm sure there are some I am missing).

It appears the Sophie Davis Biomedical School For Medicine offers a BS/MD option. Students who apply for and get into a BS/MD program are granted a conditional spot in a partner medical school; I say "conditional" because this assumes the student completes his/her bachelor's program with a specific GPA, specific courses, etc. Students don't have to plan everything out themselves: as long as you stick to your program and get the desired grades, you are granted acceptance into their partner medical school right out of college. This can make the process a lot easier, however, it can cause issues for those who end up wanting to pursue something other than medical school. You must be absolutely certain you want to go to medical school when you start your bachelor's program, which is a huge commitment. It just depends on whether or not you think a BS/MD program is right for you, or if you want to go the traditional route of obtaining a BS first and then applying to an MD program after.

I hope this helps. Good luck!
Thank you comment icon Thank you, Audrey! Omesha
Thank you comment icon Good detailed Answer 👌 Waseem Jafri
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Waseem’s Answer

One has to become a general surgeon followed by the subspecialty of cardiac surgery.
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