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Thoracic Surgery- Specialty Preparation Guide

Photo of thoracic surgeons performing a surgery

What is cardiothoracic surgery?

Cardiothoracic surgeons provide care for patients with diseases within the chest. Commonly treated conditions include coronary artery disease, valvular heart disease, heart failure, aortic aneurysms, cancers of the lung/esophagus/mediastinum, and congenital heart anomalies.

Those interested in cardiothoracic surgery should:

  • Want an intellectually challenging career with a focus in cardiopulmonary physiology, oncology, and critical care
  • Are results-oriented
  • Enjoy working with your hands
  • Are interested in an evolving field with new technology
  • Possess leadership qualities and enjoy working as a team

Thoracic surgeons performing a surgery

What is training like

There are three primary pathways:

  • Traditional - 5 years of general surgery + 2-3 years of cardiothoracic surgery (1 spot/year at IU)
  • Integrated - 6 years of cardiothoracic surgery (1 spot/year at IU)
  • Fast-Track - 4 years of general surgery + 3 years of cardiothoracic surgery, all at one institution (not available at IU)

What makes one competitive?

  • High academic achievement: USMLE step scores (generally >240), Honors in surgery and most other clerkships, AOA membership, strong letters of recommendation
  • Research experience, involvement/leadership in student interest groups and professional organizations

Subspecialty training available after completion of cardiothoracic surgery residency: During a cardiothoracic surgery residency, trainees can select a thoracic or cardiac track. After residency, trainees can further subspecialize through fellowships in heart failure, transplant, aortic, transcatheter therapies, congenital, etc.

For more information please contact: 

Program DirectorLawrence Lee, MD, MBA

Program Coordinator - Cherron Jones.