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Thoracic Surgeon  What They Do

Just the Facts

Surgeons Career Video

Insider Info

dotWhat is it? Thoracic surgery is concerned with diseases of the lungs, esophagus, chest wall, diaphragm, trachea and bronchi. That includes lung cancer, infections, problems with the esophagus, and thoracic trauma.

dotThe job is tough. To get certified by the American Board of Thoracic Surgery, you need previous certification by the American Board of Surgery, a minimum of two years training in thoracic surgery, plus a passing grade on a two-part examination administered by the American Board of Thoracic Surgery.

dotSpecialists, such as thoracic surgeons, work primarily in private practices or hospitals.

dotHours can be long for thoracic surgeons -- anywhere from 60 to 100 hours per week. Thoracic surgeon Dr. John Miller estimates that he works about 60 hours per week, not including on-call time. Dr. Julie Swain of the University of Kentucky College of Medicine estimates her weeks can easily run up to 100 working hours on a consistent basis.

"Almost every weekday, I work from 7 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., many times even later," says Dr. Camilla Mican. "So, the day averages 10 to 14 hours. I am on call Monday morning until Friday afternoon for my own patients. I work every third weekend, so I get two weekends out of three weekends off."

At a Glance

Treat diseases of the lungs, esophagus, chest wall, diaphragm, trachea and bronchi

  • This is a high-pressure, high-risk specialty
  • The hours can be long
  • It can take 11 or 12 years of school to become a thoracic surgeon