How to Become a Transplant Surgeon


If you want to become a transplant surgeon, get ready to study. Once you complete undergraduate and medical school programs, you’re little more than halfway to your goal. You’ll also need to complete a residency and fellowship to obtain specialized experience before you can work unsupervised. Finally, you’ll need accreditation from the American Society of Transplant Surgeons.

Eight Is Hardly Enough

  • You must commit yourself to years of education to become a transplant surgeon. You’re looking at four years of undergraduate education and four years of medical school before you even start many years of specialized training. The American Medical Association recommends an undergraduate degree in biology, chemistry or physics, although some students choose other disciplines. The association lists accredited medical schools so you can rest assured your program meets proper standards. Even at this stage of your studies you can look for guidance from a transplant surgeon mentor, according to the Association of Women Surgeons.

Residency Required

  • After medical school, you’ll enter a three- to seven-year residency where you’ll train under the guidance of a transplant surgeon. The American Society of Transplant Surgeons recommends a residency curriculum that covers liver and kidney transplants, gall bladder surgery, the procedure by which organs are procured for transplant, and immunology issues. The Association of Women Surgeons notes the largest transplant programs may provide limited hands-on opportunity to residents due to a possible excess of fellows. It’s important to find a program with a suitable adviser who can guide your studies and provide a good recommendation for a fellowship.

Finally, a Fellowship

  • After medical school and residency, you’ll get a great deal of hands-on experience during a minimum two-year transplant surgery fellowship. The University of Maryland, for instance, offers a two-year fellowship with about 80 to 90 percent clinical experience and 10 to 20 percent research. During the fellowship you can choose a field of transplant specialization. Even if you want to focus on kidneys, the Association of Women Surgeons recommends you look for a program with kidney, liver and pancreas transplantation because that experience can enhance your skills in your area of specialization.

Final Cuts

  • After your fellowship, you should seek accreditation from the American Society of Transplant Surgeons, according to the Association of Women Surgeons. There is no board certification for transplant surgeons, although you’re expected to keep up your general surgery certification. As a surgeon, you need a license to practice medicine in your state, according to the American Medical Association. The license becomes permanent after you pass a series of exams and you practice for a minimum number of years. You also need to keep up with continuing education requirements in your state.

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