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IU School of Medicine general surgery resident experience Q&A with Dr. Thomas Maatman

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 residents in general surgery to talk about their experience.


Dr. Thomas Maatman – Third-year research resident

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

I actually ended up doing an away rotation here at IU School of Medicine during my fourth year of medical school in Michigan. I was working with Attila Nakeeb, MD, and Michael G. House, MD. This was part of that reason that I wanted to come to Indiana, =because of the volume of surgical oncology cases that they get. Also, that one month that I spent here as a medical student to do my rotation, I really liked the hospital system, I liked the residents, the attendings. It was a really good work environment and a good training experience. It just seemed to fit me pretty well.

How would you describe your experience here in Indianapolis?

That’s another reason I really like IU School of Medicine. During that month doing my away rotation, I came to really enjoy the city of Indianapolis. During my free time I got to enjoy the nightlife, the different breweries, all the different restaurants and everything else. It's a really good size city that fits me well, it's not too big or overwhelming, but it's not small. The campus is next to most of the hospitals so you can get to them in a five- to 10-minute walk.

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

One of the strengths of our surgery program is that it's a very large program. It is one of the largest surgical residency programs in the country by number of residents. You spend the majority of time rotating through five hospitals, most of them downtown, and they're all very well-known hospitals.  Such as Riley Hospital for Children, which is one of the best children's hospitals in the country.

You get to see a wide variety of surgical rotations, and they’re all top level. The volume of cases gives you so much exposure and training, you see some of the most unique cases that you can possibly see. Having a large program with a wide range of specialties is really nice and you get to experience it all.

I also think one of our biggest strengths is our attendings being dedicated in teaching. They get to know you know and teach in a manner that actually makes you enjoy the process.

How did COVID-19 affect your training or education? How do you think your department handled the situation?

Being in my research years, I feel we were not impacted as much as the clinical residents. I know that one of the biggest strengths that we had during the time was our leadership, our program director and our chair of surgery and assistant program director were all very supportive and made time to talk to us and make sure that we were doing OK. They asked us for feedback on what they can do better, and we got constant updates.

Having that kind of leadership in a program really helped us to get through and manage our stress during a time where we didn't really know what was going on.

How would you describe your previous year?

During my clinical years, I really enjoyed the bond that I built with my fellow residents. There's not a single resident that I don't get along with. They're all very helpful. For example, if you need to switch for a weekend off, they're very accommodating and will help you out. These past years I really felt like we’ve been taking care of each other.

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

I can't stress enough how great our attendings treat us. We get treated as colleagues. You feel like they’re working hard towards your education and have a genuine interest in making you a great surgeon. They want to see you grow over time.

During my clinical research, the coolest thing was to become really close with one faculty member. They’ve taken me under their wing as a mentor and helped me in areas that I felt I was weak in. That kind of help builds me up into a more dynamic and well-rounded resident and doctor.

How do you feel about the support you get from your peers?
I feel like they are a family. You come into this program with 10 to 15 other people, and you immediately have a nice group of friends that you can get to know the new city with.

What do you look forward to next year?

I look forward to restarting clinical rotations, getting in the operating room again, and taking care of surgical patients, which is what I love to do.

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.
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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...