New England Surgical Society
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Paying the Price: Understanding the Opportunity Cost of Dedicated Research Time
*Michael P DeWane, *Daniel C Thomas, Walter E Longo, Peter S Yoo
Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, CT

Objective: This study quantified the opportunity cost of performing dedicated research during surgical residency and assessed knowledge of that impact among current trainees.
Design: Opportunity cost analysis; targeted anonymous survey.
Setting: A large tertiary academic hospital in the Northeast.
Participants: Categorical clinical trainees and research trainees enrolled in a General Surgery Residency.
Interventions: None.
Main Outcome Measures: Opportunity cost of 1, 2 and 3 dedicated surgical research years by specialty on overall career earnings and the difference in actual and estimated opportunity cost as estimated by trainees.
Results: A specialty specific economic analysis was performed to determine the opportunity cost of pursuing dedicated research time in residency versus completing clinical years uninterrupted. For all specialties, dedicated research time was shown to negatively affect career earnings. The net cost was highest among those intending to pursue Cardiothoracic Surgery at $2.6 million following 2 years of research and lowest for those intending to pursue Surgical Oncology at $0.8 million. A total of 26 of 35 (74%) current research residents & clinical residents intending to perform dedicated research time responded to an anonymous survey. On average, survey respondents underestimated the impact of dedicated research time on career earnings by $1.1 million.
Conclusions: Dedicated research time during General Surgery Residency carries a substantial opportunity cost to overall career earnings. General Surgery Residents lack an understanding of both the direction and the magnitude of the opportunity cost of dedicated research time.


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