There are many objective means available to evaluate a faculty member. Estimating a faculty’s worth is important for job placement, compensation, and career development. One of the first things many do when “evaluating” someone is to perform a PubMed search, but even that gauge, limited to research, is fraught with challenges and controversies. Grant rewards and national presentations are also important markers of academic success. Quality metrics are gaining momentum and will be used more in the future. Conversely, measuring the quality of an academic surgeon’s performance of teaching and patient care is much harder. It seems that too often good surgeons become burned-out due to a lack of recognition and little appreciation for their teaching and clinical prowess. Conversely, some academic surgeons succeed with minimal teaching and mediocre clinical performance due to strengths in other areas or inaccurate assessment by their peers and division leaders. It is rare for partners to scrub cases or otherwise directly witness their colleagues in action. The resident and fellow perspective is unique, as we have the opportunity to evaluate our attendings in comparison to their partners and in “real life” technically and personally challenging situations. While most residency programs utilize a system for trainees to evaluate their attending surgeons, these evaluations are requested concurrently with so many other demands (and possibly fear of the consequences of delivering negative evaluations); therefore, the requests are overlooked or the evaluations are completed half-willingly. Additionally, these evaluations, intended to be used for rewarding good surgeons, appears to be a small part of a faculty member’s review process.
The trainee’s perspective is underappreciated and underutilized in evaluating an attending surgeon’s teaching and clinical skills. Most residents have been asked to recommend a physician who is an expert in a specific disease or operation, and have quickly surmised who they would prefer to care for a family member or friend (and who they would caution against). Likewise when discussing attendings, we as residents and fellows are quick to mention those who taught us the most and those we most enjoyed working alongside. There are many goals and metrics by which to measure attending faculty but at the center of any academic surgical practice is providing excellent patient care and training surgeons. Trainee opinion of their teachers is an underutilized and important mechanism to grade attending surgeons.