Transplant surgeons are medical doctors that specialize in transplanting organs from one patient to another. Some transplant surgeons specialize in transplanting a specific organ like the heart while others perform multiple types of transplant surgeries. Transplant surgeons are one of the highest paid medical professionals, but their training period lasts approximately 15 years.
The first steep required for becoming a transplant surgeon is to obtain an undergraduate degree from an accredited university and take the Medical College Admissions Test. Medical schools use the Medical College Admissions Test to compare applicants to one another. The next required step is four years of medical school followed by a five- to six-year surgical residency program. During medical school, students must take the United States Medical Licensing Examination. Getting high scores on this exam can help secure a spot in a competitive surgery residency program. The last step is to complete a fellowship in transplant surgery. Most residency and fellowship programs provide individuals with a $50,000-60,000 stipend during their residency and fellowship years.
The median salary for heart transplant surgeons as of June 2011 in the United States was $433,216, according to Salary.com. The top 10 percent of heart transplant surgeons received more than $641,601 and the bottom 10 percent received less than $224,393. The middle earning 50 percent received between $323,910 and $542,293 annually. The median salary for other types of transplant surgeons is approximately $433,000, according to Stateuniversity.com. Heart transplant surgeons perform heart transplant surgeries by first harvesting a donor heart from a patient that has been declared brain-dead, but is still on life support, according to Medline Plus. Finding a donor heart can be extremely difficult and the waiting list for heart transplant surgery is usually extremely long.
Transplant surgeons have stressful jobs because most of their patients are going through a life and death surgery. However, a career as a transplant surgeon can be extremely satisfying because it provides you with the opportunity to directly save human lives. Transplant surgeons usually have “call” which means their hospital can call them at any time, including the middle of the night, to come to work. This happens commonly for transplant surgeons because it’s impossible to predict when an organ is going to become available from a donor. Transplant surgeons do their best to transplant organs as quickly as possible from donors after they die because it increases the chance of having a successful surgery. Transplant surgeons work approximately 70 hours each week.
Despite a hectic lifestyle, approximately 88 percent of transplant surgeons are married, according to the American Society of Transplant Surgeons.