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Education & Fellowships
Independent Cardiothoracic Surgery Training Program

The Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California is committed to offering its residents excellence in all aspects of cardiothoracic training. The program is designed to address the basic fund of knowledge in our field, establish excellent technical skills, and develop the finest cardiothoracic surgeons in the country. Under the leadership of Dr. Vaughn Starnes, the Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery has remained at the forefront of new technology. This enables our trainees to offer cutting edge techniques to potential practice opportunities upon graduation.

The core curriculum and extensive case volume combined with the diversity of the hospitals in which our residents train helps ensure that these goals are met.  When residents complete the program, they are highly skilled in the operating room, academically comprehensive, and have earned the respect of their peers and faculty.


The Cardiothoracic Surgery Training Program has enjoyed a long tradition in leadership beginning in 1948 under the tutelage of founder, John Jones, M.D., a pioneer in thoracic surgery.  Dr. Jones administered the program throughout his long and prestigious career at the Hospital of the Good Samaritan and the Childrens Hospital Los Angeles.  Accreditation was granted by the ACGME in 1965.

The transition of the primary program site from the Hospital of the Good Samaritan to the LAC+USC Medical Center began in 1990.  This was driven by several events that impacted the academic environment.  The appointment of Tom DeMeester, M.D., as Professor and Chairman, Department of Surgery at USC, the opening of the new, Keck Hospital of USC in 1991, and in 1992 the appointment of Vaughn A. Starnes, M.D., as the Co-Chairman, Department of Surgery, and Chief, Cardiothoracic Surgery led to a logical transition of the program to the University.  Dr. Starnes assumed the role of the Director of the Cardiothoracic Surgery Training Program upon his arrival at USC, and resident activity was concentrated at LAC+USC Medical Center, Keck Hospital of USC/Norris Cancer Center, and Childrens Hospital Los Angeles.  In 1995, Huntington Memorial Hospital in Pasadena was added as a training site.  Over the following decade, the Cardiothoracic training program at USC evolved into one of the premier training sites in the United States producing highly qualified and talented Cardiothoracic Surgeons.  In 2004, Dr. Winfield Wells was appointed program director after numerous years serving as a tireless resident advocate. He ushered in a new era of training ensuring academic excellence in a changing environment. As a reflection of continued growth and advancement, in 2006 Dr. Starnes was appointed executive director of the newly formed CardioVascular Thoracic Institute. This integrated model breaks down traditional barriers in patient care and allows collaboration between cardiothoracic and vascular surgeons, cardiologists, anesthesiologists, pulmonogists and basic scientists working as one without the domains of departments or specialties. In addition to permitting delivery of pre-eminent patient care in the treatment and prevention of cardiovascular and thoracic diseases, the CVTI allows training of a new breed of surgeon cross trained in different disciplines.

Recent Highlights

In 2006, Dr. Starnes was appointed Chair of the Department of Surgery. Dr. Baker was appointed as the Vice Chair of Surgical Education at that time and assumed the role of program director of The Cardiothoracic Surgery training program in 2010. Dr. Baker has achieved national recognition for his involvement in Cardiothoracic Education. He developed a comprehensive educational curriculum including a highly structured simulation training program. In 2011, The Cardiothoracic Surgery Training Program at USC was approved as the first integrated (I-6) residency program in Southern California.

The Independent Cardiothoracic Surgery Training Program, under the guidance of Craig Baker M.D. FACS, is designed to give residents the expertise to qualify for the American Board of Thoracic Surgery certification.  Our curriculum and facilities offers the residents extensive and comprehensive training by exposing them to the full range of cardiothoracic conditions.  High patient volume and diverse teaching faculty focused on education contributes greatly to the learning experience.  We are committed to ensuring that residents perform large number of cases and that they are exposed to the full spectrum of clinical environments in which they may practice one day.  We have among our training sites a private university hospital; a children’s hospital, a large county medical center, and a large community based hospital with a long tradition of academic affiliation with the University of Southern California.  In addition to this well-rounded training environment, trainees will garnish experience in the full gamut of cardiothoracic procedures including minimally invasive, robotics, complex aortic arch and root procedures, heart and lung transplantation, mechanical support, adult congenital and endovascular skills.


How to apply: The Independent Cardiothoracic Training Program at The University of Southern California is currently accepting applications for two residents per year and accepts application through the Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS).

Go to this link and apply: https://www.aamc.org/services/eras/

Interview Dates

February 11, 2012 and March 17, 2012

More Information

For more information, contact Mitzi Clendening, Cardiothoracic Surgery Residency Coordinator, at (323) 442-7824 or Mitzi.Clendening@med.usc.edu.

The program director of the Cardiothoracic Residency Program is Dr. Craig J. Baker, MD. cbaker@surgery.usc.edu


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