Duties and Responsibilities: Specializing in surgical procedures related to the chest, thoracic surgeons are some of the remarkably few people who can say they have held someone’s heart in their hands — literally. These medical professionals undergo many years of education and rigorous training to prepare them for a career in the operating room — often working long, irregular hours on their feet. A thoracic surgeon’s job is far from easy, but the career may appeal to those who enjoy helping others and love working under pressure.
Education:Becoming a thoracic surgeon requires 13 to 16 years of education and training, beginning with a bachelor’s degree. Students may pursue a degree in any area they desire, though premedical studies and biology are the most commonly chosen. After earning a bachelor’s degree, students go on to attend medical school, which involves another four years of education. The first two years of medical school are usually devoted to laboratory and classroom instruction, while the final two years are spent completing clinical rotations in common medical specialties. Upon finishing medical school, aspiring thoracic surgeons enter a five-year residency program in general surgery, followed by a year-long residency in cardiothoracic surgery. During residency training, surgeons gain experience working with patients and learning surgical techniques from experienced surgeons. They observe thoracic surgical procedures, and eventually they have the opportunity to scrub in and assist in the operating room. Residency training is where a thoracic surgeon will gain most of the knowledge and skills he needs to properly do his job in a career where his knowledge and abilities can mean the difference between life and death for his patients.