Center for Surgical Training & Research

The Center for Surgical Training & Research (CSTAR) is advancing the scholarship of evidence-based surgical education.

Current Research in the Center for Surgical Training & Research

The healthcare system has changed dramatically in the past 3 decades. In contrast, the apprenticeship-based training model has changed very little in over a century. We must adapt how we educate and evaluate surgeons in order to ensure future surgeons can safely care for patients.

One of few centers in the United States working at the intersection of surgical education and health services research, the Center for Surgical Training and Research (CSTAR) is a group of educational scientists performing translational research in curriculum, teaching, assessment, educational culture, and education policy.

The Problem

Accumulating national evidence demonstrates that current models of surgical training lead to wide variation in surgical trainees’ readiness for independent practice. These gaps have been difficult to address because there is relatively little scientific research into how best to educate surgical trainees. Our mission is straightforward: to develop and implement evidence-based educational practice.

The Approach

We advance our research using rigorous scientific methods from a wide variety of fields, including:

  • Assessment
  • Educational data science and learning analytics
  • Simulation
  • Anthropology
  • Cognitive sychology
  • Health services and outcomes research
  • Global health
  • Policy
  • Software and industrial operations engineering
  • Implementation science

Informed by this multidisciplinary and collaborative work, we are translating our research into the systemwide changes needed to improve surgical education and patient care.

Contributions to Science

CSTAR researchers are leading in multiple high-impact areas of surgical education research. For example, the SIMPL assessment tool was developed by C-STAR members. This assessment app is being used by thousands of surgical trainees and surgical faculty around the world. Besides providing trainees and programs with critical performance feedback, that data is also being used to improve the quality of the surgical educational system. For example, it is helping to provide empiric data about gaps in surgical training. These data serve as the foundation for new training models that better balance trainee autonomy and patient safety.

Finally, an emerging area of inquiry sits at the intersection between surgical education, surgeon performance assessment, and patient outcomes. Our close collaborative relationships with medical regulatory agencies (e.g. the ACGME, the ABMS, multiple specialty Boards, etc) has given us unique access to trainee performance data. We have combined those with data from a large consortia of training programs (the Procedural Learning and Safety Collaborative) and with data managed by our group of health services researchers at the Center for Healthcare Outcomes and Policy (CHOP). Combining data from these different sources has opened new opportunities to explore the relationship between surgical training and surgeon performance. This in turn has helped us make evidence-based recommendations about how educational policy should be updated to improve patient outcomes.