But, over the years, actual hands-on surgical training has been reduced, he said. “When otolaryngology residents were on the general surgery service, they were mostly on the floor doing post-operative care and not participating in the operating room learning general surgery skills,” he said. “They weren’t really learning to operate as a fundamental skill.”
The opportunities to practice open head and neck surgery aren’t as common as they used to be, due to a shift toward more non-surgical treatments of head and neck cancers and the emergence of robotic and endoscopic procedures as opposed to traditional open surgical approaches, said Dr. Weber. “Furthermore, many of our procedures today are salvage surgery, for patients who have failed primary treatments. These are some of our most challenging cases and require a greater level of surgical expertise and judgment. The treatment paradigms have changed in the last five to 10 years, he said.
Jesus Medina, MD, a professor of otolaryngology at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center in Oklahoma City, a former chair of the otolaryngology department, and a former Triological Society president, also cited the changes in surgical practice as the impetus for the curriculum changes.