What is the Difference Between a Resident and a Fellow Surgeon?

someone suggested i go to a fellow surgeon for a tummy tuck over a resident, what is the difference really?

Doctor Answers 6


The current American system of graduate medical education was introduced by William Stewart Halstead, Chief Surgeon and a founder of Johns Hopkins School of Medicine (one of their famous Four Horsemen).

After completing the four years of basic medical education a medical school offers, doctors may choose further specialization post graduate training hospitals associated with hospitals.
INTERN - the first year of post-medical school hospital training. In the old days, these young doctors could not leave the hospital and lived "interned" within its walls. These are the least qualified of surgeons.
RESIDENT - better trained surgeons. Residency training length varies with different specialties. The highest ranking , most experienced resident is the CHIEF RESIDENT. While licensed, he still has to operate supervised by an ATTENDING surgeon.
FELLOW - a surgeon who graduated from a training program who is receiving additional specialized training. Depending on the institution, these surgeons can act as junior attending surgeons, supervising residents. These surgeons are the more experienced of the younger surgeon group.

There is little doubt that the older and more experienced the surgeon the better your outcome. 

Memphis Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 109 reviews

Resident vs Fellow

Typically a Resident is a surgeon in training at some stage along the path toward becoming Board Certified.  A Fellow is someone who has completed their residency training, usually is not yet Board Certified but may be in the process of taking those exams, and is doing additional training is a field of special interest to them.  Both are young surgeons but the Fellow is generally more experienced and less supervised by the attending surgeon who is doing the training.

Richard P. Rand, MD, FACS
Seattle Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 67 reviews

Resident or Fellow, what does it all mean.

A resident refers to a physician who is in a training program. A surgical resident is a physician who is in a training program to become a surgeon.

A Fellow, if they are in a recognized program, is someone who has completed their resident training and is doing additional training in their specialty. 

Francis X. Fleming, MD
Kennewick Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 17 reviews

Fellow Surgeon verus Resident Surgeon

Most fellow surgeons have completed a residency program in their medical specialty.  Resident surgeons are physicians in-training.  It is important to understand who will do your procedure and what their level of training may be.  Also, the physicians should be either in an accredited residency program, or a fellow who has completed an accredited program.

Stephen Bresnick, MD
Los Angeles Plastic Surgeon
4.7 out of 5 stars 32 reviews

Intern, Resident or Fellow for Surgeon?

Although I understand that plastic surgeons, including myself, need to train somewhere, I would suggest that you do not make yourself a “subject” for any type of surgery. Ultimately, you should keep the final goal in mind; achieving the results you wish with breast surgery as safely and complication free as possible.
I would suggest, instead that you slowly save up for this elective procedure. When the time is right from the physical, emotional, psychosocial, and financial standpoints, find the best plastic surgeon you can to perform the procedure for you.
When it comes to choosing a plastic surgeon I generally advise that patients start with the American Society of Plastic Surgery to obtain a list of well experienced board-certified plastic surgeons.
Then, I would suggest you visit a few surgeons whose practices concentrate on aesthetic surgery. Ask to see lots of examples of their work and preferably speak/see patients who have had similar procedures done.
You will find, while doing your due diligence, that there are many different “specialties” who will offer their services to you; again, I strongly recommend you concentrate on surgeons certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery.
Make your decisions carefully when it comes to selection of your plastic surgeon; although no surgeon is perfect and every plastic surgeon has complications that require revisionary surgery, revisionary surgery rates may vary from one surgeon to another. Also, remember that if revisionary surgery does become necessary, it may be more expensive in many ways. Therefore, do not to make your decisions based on financial considerations primarily.
I hope this helps.

Tom J. Pousti, MD, FACS
San Diego Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 1,498 reviews

Resident or Fellow

A resident is a doctor training in a specifict field.  A fellow is usually someone who has completed the residency but pursues additional training in a subspecialty of that field of training.

Steven Wallach, MD
New York Plastic Surgeon
4.1 out of 5 stars 29 reviews

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.