The Surgeon Scientist Training program (SSTP) is a program offered by the Department of Surgery at the University of Toronto. The purpose of the SSTP, which was founded in 1983, is to provide excellent research training for surgical residents who wish to pursue a career in academic surgery. This structured program grants surgical residents a minimum of two years of protected research time to pursue a graduate degree. While enrolled in the SSTP, residents have no clinical responsibilities and discretionary clinical involvement must not exceed 20% of work activities. Furthermore, SSTP candidates must also enroll in the Clinician Investigator Program (CIP). This accredited training program — administered by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada — is widely recognized by academic institutions in Canada and abroad.
The SSTP has a longstanding track record of producing Surgeon-Scientists. Over 70% of graduates from this program go on to have an academic practice. This is a testament to the outstanding training environment and invaluable opportunities afforded through this program. In addition to facilitating the completion of a graduate degree, the SSTP organizes a number of seminars that are specifically catered to surgeon-scientists, such as workshops on surgical innovation, or sessions on how to balance clinical and academic responsibilities. The program also provides plenty of opportunities for mentorship through networking events aimed at helping trainees navigate the subtleties involved in building a successful academic program. Finally, through a national conference and a local research day, the SSTP provides trainees with a platform to present their work and refine their communication skills.
The SSTP is a popular program among surgical residents at the University of Toronto, and many trainees identify it as one of the main reasons that led them to pursue their training at the university. Given the fact that funding to support trainees is limited, admission to the SSTP is competitive, and the application process is rigorous. Successful candidates must have demonstrated strong clinical and technical proficiency to ensure that their time away from the clinic will not have a deleterious impact on their surgical training. Applicants must formulate a clear rationale to pursue research training and must secure approval from their Program Director, their Division Chair, and the Vice-Chair of Research at the Department of Surgery. They must also be admitted to a thesis-based graduate program within the University of Toronto, and be supported by a graduate supervisor. Candidates may enter the SSTP prior to, during, or at the completion of their clinical training.