Education and Training

Training the Next Generation of Cardiac Surgeons Since 1928

Resident Dr. Vikram Sood discusses his decision to join the Michigan Cardiac Surgery team as a house officer in thoracic surgery and his experience as one of the first residents in the integrated program.

The University of Michigan was the first in the United States to offer a residency in thoracic surgery, built on the philosophy that this type of surgery is so complicated that residents need two years of special education in operating on the chest. The residency, pioneered by Dr. John Alexander, Michigan’s first Director of Thoracic Surgery, has become the educational standard for thoracic surgical residency training. As the institution that launched the first residency, Michigan is a national training model where education is a priority, not an afterthought. We have a nearly 90-year-old focus on educating future general thoracic and heart surgeons. Our goal has always been for our residents to be the best exposed and receive an education that allows them to perform at the highest level in thoracic surgery with hands-on experience. The Department has a long tradition of producing well trained, experienced surgeons who go on to be leaders in the field.

Offering Three Pathways of Training

Thoracic Surgery Residency

Resident Dr. Joe Phillips discusses his experience and his decision to choose Michigan in this brief video clip.

The traditional two-year thoracic surgery program is offered for those who have completed either a general or vascular surgery residency. It provides two years of cardiac & thoracic surgery training following general surgery.

Integrated Cardiothoracic Surgery Residency

The integrated program, which began in July 2013, is geared toward medical students who know they wish to become cardiothoracic surgeons. Instead of first completing general surgery training and then beginning a separate residency in cardiothoracic surgery, doctors enter a cardiothoracic residency directly out of medical school. This six-year program includes a variety of rotations in the early years, including general surgery, critical care, cardiac imaging, and other relevant surgical and non-surgical specialties.  In 2016, the Michigan Department of Cardiac Surgery integrated program was one of only 26 such programs in the country. 

Congenital Cardiac Surgery Residency

The University of Michigan Congenital Cardiac Surgery Residency is one of 13 programs in the country approved by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education.

The Graduates are eligible for the American Board of Thoracic Surgery Congenital Cardiac Surgery certification process.  The residency is 1 year in duration and follows completion of either an Integrated Thoracic Surgery residency or Cardiothoracic Surgery Fellowship.  The residency encompasses surgical training for congenital cardiac surgery along with the full spectrum of perioperative care.  The University of Michigan is one of the earliest training programs with an outstanding track record with many of our graduates now leading congenital cardiac surgery programs around the country. 

The Michigan Difference

When you decide to become a resident at the University of Michigan Department of Cardiac Surgery, you join a culture of education. Because of the expertise found in every discipline, Michigan is considered one of the very best places to train.  

Trainees are exposed to a wealth of clinical pathology and are able to learn from premiere faculty recruited nationally and internationally who have deep expertise in all branches of cardiac surgery.

Here are just a few examples: 

  • Dr. Steven F. Bolling is a world leader in mitral valve repair, one of the three busiest mitral valve surgeons in the country.
  • Dr. G. Michael Deeb is a world leader in aortic valve surgery and led the team that implanted the first total artificial heart.
  • Dr. Francis D. Pagani is a world leader in ventricular assist devices.
  • Dr. Himanshu J. Patel is known for his pioneering work in treating aortic aneurysms.
  • Dr. Richard G. Ohye leads one of the busiest congenital heart programs in the country.

Visit faculty profiles for more information on these and other leading cardiac surgery team members.

All the Basics and More

Residents and fellows experience the full scope of working in a department that performs cutting edge research and are directly involved in key studies, as well as clinical trials. 

Cardiac surgery residents routinely publish in prestigious academic journals and have presented at national and international meetings.  

Over the course of your time as a resident, you will be trained by the most skilled physicians. The faculty are experts and mentors committed to teaching and they provide the foundation for an outstanding training program. Residents are active participants in operations and become proficient in every aspect of the surgical process, from diagnosis to techniques required for surgery, as well as follow up clinical care.


Cardiovascular Center Building
U-M Cardiovascular Center
CS Mott Children's Hospital
C.S. Mott Children's Hospital
University of Michigan Health System
University Hospital

Residents practice at premiere facilities, rotating between the Veterans Hospital, C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, the Cardiovascular Center and the University Hospital. Residents appreciate the wide breadth of specialty, which allows them to learn about all aspects of heart surgery. This outstanding training has prepared residents well for the field of cardiac surgery. Michigan Cardiac Surgery residents regularly go on to become leading surgeons at the nation’s finest medical institutions.

A Unique Infrastructure Geared Toward Developing Practical Skills

The Department has a pool of support dedicated to providing residents with all the skills they need to succeed at Michigan and beyond. A full-time biostatician is on staff and residents have access to a rich database. Residents and fellows can test their presentations out before a faculty audience.  This give the opportunity of refining them before heading to a national stage. A monthly Research in Progress seminar series allows both residents and faculty to present their ideas to their peers to get feedback.

Promoting Diversity

The Cardiothoracic Residency program is nearly equivalent in the number of male & female doctors.  Ensuring women are well represented can be especially challenging, however, Michigan Medicine remains committed to Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion.  The higher number at Michigan is indicative of the Department’s highly qualified pool of applicants.

A Superb Medical School

Michigan’s Medical School is the first entry into one of the highest ranking medical institutions in the country, comprised of committed faculty in both the basic sciences and clinical arenas. Many medical school students stay to pursue their postgraduate training here. Summer research opportunities are available for medical students interested in cardiac and thoracic surgery.

A Livable Community

Ann Arbor is a small town with big town amenities. The hospitals are within an easy walking, biking or driving distance of numerous affordable places to live. The city offers everything from sporting events, to art and cultural activities and first-class restaurants. The town once known primarily for its academic prowess has topped many "best" lists, including Best Small Town Honeymoon Destinations, Best College Town for People Who Aren't in College, Best Sports Town, Most Walkable Town, one of the Ten Coolest Cities in the Midwest and Best Town for Young Families.  There are over 100 restaurants in the downtown area alone, encompassing every type of cuisine, from Ethiopian to Chinese, South American, Irish and American fare. There are a plethora of artistic events, including stage performances and film festivals. A total of 157 picturesque city parks, perfect for walking, biking, jogging or picnicking, dot the landscape. Ann Arbor is only a half hour's drive from Detroit Metropolitan airport, a Delta hub. It’s just under an hour’s drive to Detroit, which has experienced a recent renaissance and is home to the major sports team as well as eclectic retail and upscale restaurants.  For more information, visit "Living in Ann Arbor."

Distinguished Alumni

Our residents leave the Department of Cardiac Surgery well prepared to make a difference in the world of cardiac medicine. Some enjoy their time here that they chose to stay at Michigan making a significant impact in our department. Others have gone on to become national and international leaders in the field. Michigan Cardiac Surgery alums form a network of some of the most prestigious, highly regarded cardiac surgeons anywhere.

A sampling of former residents and their current paths include the following:

Dr. Steven Bibevski completed the congenital heart residency and joined the faculty at Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital in Hollywood Florida. Dr. Bibevski has extensive experience in the treatment of all complex forms of congenital heart disease.  Originally from Melbourne, Australia, Dr. Bibevski also completed a visiting fellowship at the Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne.

Dr. David Tom Cooke  Associate Professor Head, Section of General Thoracic Surgery; Program Director, Cardiothoracic Residency; Vice Chari for Faculty Development & Wellness at UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento.

Dr. Jennifer Hirsch-Romano at the University of Michigan, completed her residency in 2005. Dr. Hirsh-Romano is an Associate Professor of Cardiac Surgery and Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Communicable Diseases.

Dr. Jennifer Solms Nelson is currently a Cardiothoracic Surgeon, Division of Cardiovascular Surgery, Department of Cardiovascular Services at Nemours Children's Hospital in Orlando.

Dr. Allan Pickens  Associate Professor, Program Director, Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery, Department of Surgery, at Emory University School of Medicine, Directory of Thoracic Oncology, Director of Minimally Invasive Surgery, Section of Cardiothoracic Surgery, at Emory University Hospital Midtown, Atlanta.

Dr. Terry Shih is currently practicing General Surgery, Cardiothoracic Surgery at PeaceHealth Medical Group in Vancouver.

Dr. I-Wen Wang  a Cardiothoracic Transplant & Ventricular Assist Device Fellow in 2006, Dr. Wang is now with the Division of Cardiac Surgery at the Indiana University School of Medicine.

 Dr. Thomas Varghese Jr. is currently the Executive Medical Director and Chief Value Officer at the Huntsman Cancer Institute, Head of Section of General Thoracic Surgery, and Program Director of Cardiothoracic Surgery Fellowship at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.


Logistics of a Cardiac Surgery Residency

The University of Michigan offers highly competitive salaries and tremendous benefits to our residents/fellows.  An overview of salary, benefits and employment eligibility is available on the GME Office website, under "Prospective Residents/Fellows". 

For application details and deadlines, including information on how to apply for a medical license and state of Michigan drug prescribing certificate, visit the Department of Surgery Education Office.