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Make New Friends But Keep the Old: Minimally Invasive Surgery Training in Gynecologic Oncology Fellowship Programs
  1. Kari L. Ring, MD*,
  2. Pedro T. Ramirez, MD*,
  3. Lesley B. Conrad, MD,
  4. William Burke, MD,
  5. R. Wendel Naumann, MD§,
  6. Mark F. Munsell, MS and
  7. Michael Frumovitz, MD, MPH*
  1. *Department of Gynecologic Oncology and Reproductive Medicine, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX;
  2. Department of Gynecologic Oncology, The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, TX;
  3. Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York, NY;
  4. §Department of Gynecologic Oncology, Levine Cancer Institute, Charlotte, NC; and
  5. Department Biostatistics, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX.
  1. Address correspondence and reprint requests to Michael Frumovitz, MD, MPH, Department of Gynecologic Oncology and Reproductive Medicine, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, PO Box 301439, Unit 1362, Houston, TX 77230-1439. E-mail: mfrumovitz{at}


Objectives To evaluate the role of minimally invasive surgery (MIS) in gynecologic oncology fellowship training and fellows’ predictions of their use of MIS in their future practice.

Methods All fellows-in-training in American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology–approved training programs were surveyed in 2012 through an online or mailed-paper survey. Data were analyzed and compared to results of a similar 2007 survey.

Results Of 172 fellows, 69 (40%) responded. Ninety-nine percent of respondents (n = 68) indicated that MIS was either very important or important in gynecologic oncology, a proportion essentially unchanged from 2007 (100%). Compared to 2007, greater proportions of fellows considered laparoscopic radical hysterectomy and node dissection for cervical cancer (87% vs 54%; P < 0.0001) and trachelectomy and staging for cervical cancer (83% vs 32%; P < 0.0001) appropriate for MIS. Of the respondents, 92% believed that maximum or some emphasis should be placed on robotic-assisted surgery and 89% on traditional laparoscopy during fellowship training. Ten percent rated their fellowship training in laparoendoscopic single-site surgery as very poor; 44% said that the question was not applicable. Most respondents (60%) in 2012 performed at least 11 procedures per month, whereas most respondents (45%) in 2007 performed 6 to 10 procedures per month (P = 0.005). All respondents at institutions where robotic surgery was used were allowed to operate at the robotic console, and 63% of respondents reported that in robotic-assisted surgery cases when a fellow sat at the robot, the fellow performed more than 50% of the case at the console.

Conclusions These findings indicate that MIS in gynecologic oncology is here to stay. Fellowship programs should develop a systematic approach to training in MIS and in individual MIS platforms as they become more prevalent. Fellowship programs should also develop and apply an objective assessment of minimum proficiency in MIS to ensure that programs are adequately preparing trainees.

  • Minimally invasive surgery
  • Robotic surgery
  • Fellows
  • Gynecologic oncology
  • Trainees
  • Uterine cancer
  • Cervical cancer
  • Ovarian cancer

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  • This research was supported in part by the National Institutes of Health through MD Anderson’s Cancer Center Support Grant, CA016672.

  • The authors declare no conflicts of interest.