Colon and rectal surgery is limited enough in scope to allow a surgeon to be a specialist and broad enough to keep one stimulated with its variety of procedures and patients. The specialty provides an opportunity for career flexibility due to a wide range of complexity of cases and procedures. In addition, the colon and rectal surgery community is close knit, fostering longlasting personal and professional bonds.
We hope that in making your ultimate career decision, you will consider colon and rectal surgery.
Clinical Problems Treated by Colon and Rectal Surgeons
Colon and rectal surgeons demonstrate the value-added benefit of a surgeon with specialized training for the following:
- Colon and rectal cancers, especially sphincter sparing surgery and total mesorectal excision for low rectal cancers.
- Diagnosis and treatment of complex anorectal and pelvic floor problems.
- Inflammatory bowel diseases, particularly ulcerative colitis and the surgical management of Crohn’s disease.
- Surgical treatment of complicated diverticular disease.
- Surgical options and treatments for rectal prolapse.
- Specialized procedures for fecal incontinence, such as sphincter repairs, sacral nerve stimulators and the artificial bowel sphincter.
Colon and rectal surgeons also receive training in colonoscopy, sigmoidoscopy and anoscopy to complement their office and operative based practice. This combination of intra-abdominal cases, anorectal cases and endoscopy leads to a well-balanced practice and lifestyle.
Residency Training Programs
The scope of colon and rectal surgery, which includes the small bowel, colon, rectum and anus, is varied enough to maintain your interest for a lifetime. In a colon and rectal residency, you will fine tune your skills in the treatment of bowel disease. Many general surgery training programs are performing laparoscopic and robotic colon and rectal surgery in the management of benign and malignant pathologies of the large bowel. Colonoscopy, while mandated as a part of their education, is not a technique mastered by most general surgery residents. Colonoscopy is an integral part of the practice of colon and rectal surgery. The proper performance of anorectal surgery requires a thorough understanding of anatomy, pathology and surgical technique. During a residency, one can obtain the experience necessary to become a skilled anorectal surgeon. Anorectal physiologic examination is a part of most training programs and offers advanced skills in the management of colorectal disorders. Accredited colon and rectal residency training programs are recognized by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME). A complete listing of all residency programs, including contact information and application details, are available on the ASCRS website.
How To Apply to a Residency Training Program
Candidates apply the year prior to the program start date. Applicants must first request an electronic token from the AAMC Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS) Fellowships Documents Office (EFDO) in June. The token gains access to the application platform (MyERAS) which is used to directly apply to training programs. Programs begin reviewing applications in mid-July and interviews run from August to October. Applicants must also separately register for the Match via the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP). Rank lists are usually submitted by the end of October and the Match occurs in mid-November.
“I became a colorectal surgeon because of the unique variety of surgeries that we do. We are the experts on each side of the urogenital diaphragm. My job is enjoyable as it requires me to really think about patient problems, and to not just be a technician.”
Tracy Hull, MD, Cleveland, Ohio
Graduate of Cleveland Clinic Colon and Rectal Residency 1992
“Being a colorectal surgeon allows me to impact the lives of people suffering from conditions that are often times difficult to discuss. It also allows me to interact with patients from a variety of ages and backgrounds. The health care providers who share the same passion for this field is the icing on the cake when I go to work every day.”
Clarence Clark, MD, Atlanta, Georgia
Graduate of UT San Antonio Colon and Rectal Residency 2010
" I became interested in colorectal surgery due to the wide range of conditions treated, procedures performed, and age spectrum of afflicted patients. In addition, I found colorectal surgeons to be extremely engaging, supportive, and very pleaseant."
Steven D. Wexner, MD, PhD (Hon), Weston, Florida
Graduate of University of Minnesota Colon and Rectal Residency 1988