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IU School of Medicine general surgery resident experience Q&A Sara Monfared MD

Photo of Dr. Sara Monfared

The Department of Surgery places a strong emphasis on education for medical students, residents and fellows. The medical knowledge and development that occurs within the department stems from a defined curriculum, dedicated faculty and an environment for optimal care for adult and pediatric patient care.

The general surgery residency at IU School of Medicine is a competitive five-year program that exposes residents to all facets of surgery, including trauma, vascular, pediatric, transplant and reconstructive surgery. Through the general surgery residency curriculum, residents receive a solid broad-based clinical education and opportunity to excel both in the operating room and at the bedside.

We sat down with several of the current resident in general surgery to talk about their experience.


Dr. Sara Monfared - Chief Resident

What made you decide on the IU School of Medicine general surgery program?

I liked that the general surgery program was large. It has one of the greatest number of residents per class, compared to other programs. I like that you can do rotations in multiple hospitals around the Indianapolis area. I really liked the academic style. When I interviewed here seven years ago I liked it for all those reasons and continue to like the program for all the same reasons. The fact that you get experience at all the different hospitals means you get experience with such a wide spread of patient types. Every day it is a completely different experience. That's why I chose to go here.

How would you describe you experience here in Indianapolis?

Indianapolis is a very nice city. I like how it’s not an extremely large city like New York or Chicago, but it's also not rural. It’s definitely a metropolitan type city. In the past seven years that I've been here, downtown Indianapolis has expanded significantly and it’s been great to see it grow.

How do you feel about the education and training you are receiving?

I obviously like it, I stayed here to graduate and I even took two extra years here. You get a little bit of everything in the general surgery program. As a chief resident I feel I'm taking care of these patients and the patients I see are mine, from the first day I see them to the day they are discharged. How did COVID-19 affect your training or education?

How do you think your department handled the situation?

One of the biggest changes was case numbers dropped significantly, due to the state canceling all elective surgeries. But now that that ban has been lifted we are seeing it pick back up. However, the program adjusted as we needed. We did make sure the residents had a chance to help with COVID-infected patients, and our program was one of the few that volunteered immediately. As far as training, they substituted lectures to try to keep us studying and still learning, but case numbers are starting to pick back. We’ll make up for the numbers we lost.

How would you describe your previous year?

So, one of the biggest differences is that as chief resident I do the majority of the cases, or operations, as opposed to last year. Last year I would say we did a lot more emergency general surgeries and a lot of trauma cases, because those are happening all the time.


How do you feel the surgery department has supported you throughout your training?

You get a different experience depending on which faculty member you are working with and what their sub-specialty might be. For example, if you are working with faculty in trauma, we tend to get a lot of rough cases that can sometimes be tough on our mental health, because we might come across a very violent case. Trauma faculty might be more focused on giving us a lot more emotional support. As opposed to the support we get from our surgeons who do selective surgeries, they might be more focused on our education and training.

How do you feel about the support you get from your peers?

Several of the residents, including myself, picked IU School of Medicine because of the relationship the residents had with each other. We all really, really like each other and that’s impressive especially for such a large program. It’s something that really comes through when we went through the interview process and getting to meet everyone. We're such a tight knit family. I think most of us do take seven years with research so we have more time with each other. I know that I received a lot of support as an intern when I first arrived, and today we continue to follow that example. I know I constantly tell my interns to take care of their personal life and health because it’s important.

What advice would you give medical student who are considering IU School of Medicine?

Don’t be intimidated by the large program. Just because the program is large doesn’t mean you won’t get the one-on-one experience, because you will.

The views expressed in this content represent the perspective and opinions of the author and may or may not represent the position of Indiana University School of Medicine.

Marco Gutierrez

Communication Coordinator

Marco Gutierrez is a communications coordinator for the Indiana University School of Medicine, where he supports the Department of Surgery and the Office of Strategic Communications. Before joining the Office of Strategic Communications, Marco worked for...