All doctors complete the same basic graduate education. They spend four years at medical school getting a broad medical education and participating in clinical rotations. Medical school students do not choose a major; instead, they specialize by completing a residency and optional fellowship after medical school. The University of Maryland School of Medicine says that trauma surgeons must be trained in surgical procedures in all areas of the body, since they often do not have time to consult with specialists in an emergency. Therefore, a broad medical education is ideal training for them, augmented by clinical experience in emergency settings during a residency.
Medical School Curriculum
All students at a given medical school take the same basic curriculum, which provides them with a broad understanding of the scientific concepts and medical knowledge they will use to treat patients. Many programs do allow students to take some elective coursework to supplement the basic curriculum. Students who are interested in becoming trauma surgeons should take appropriate elective coursework as available, such as classes in acute care, management of complex critical illnesses and post-operative care. If available, students should also seek out coursework in specialty care situations, such as burns or cardiovascular disease.
Many medical schools provide opportunities for students to participate in research projects, either independently or in cooperation with faculty members. Students who know they want to become trauma surgeons when they enter medical school should seek out programs with a specialty in trauma surgery or with faculty members who have a research interest in trauma surgery. Students can then propose research projects with those faculty members or apply to work on ongoing clinical studies.
All medical students must participate in clinical rotations during their last two years of medical school. Clinical rotations take place in all departments, from oncology to gynecology. Emergency care, acute care and surgery may all be included rotations, depending on the particular program. Students who know they want to become trauma surgeons should seek out programs with a well-known emergency care unit so that they can make the most of this clinical rotation opportunity. For example, the University of Maryland Medical Center has an active Shock Trauma Center that makes its surgeons available 24 hours a day for consultation and referral.
Preparing for Residency
Residencies in trauma surgery are offered by medical schools and hospitals alike. Students who know they want to become trauma surgeons can best prepare for their residency by applying to medical schools that also offer a residency or fellowship program in trauma surgery. Students at such schools work alongside the same doctors who are in charge of the residency or fellowship, allowing the students to develop professional relationships that could improve their chances of being matched with the program after medical school.
- Stanford School of Medicine: Stanford's Medical Curriculum
- Association of American Medical Colleges: The Road to Becoming a Doctor
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Trauma Surgery
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Program in Trauma
- Massachusetts General Hospital: Division of Trauma, Emergency Surgery and Surgical Critical Care: Fellowships
- Oregon Health and Science University: Trauma, Critical Care and Acute Surgery
Maria Magher has been working as a professional writer since 2001. She has worked as an ESL teacher, a freshman composition teacher and an education reporter, writing for regional newspapers and online publications. She has written about parenting for Pampers and other websites. She has a Master's degree in English and creative writing.