Correspondence: Specialty training

Br J Cardiol 2012;19:15 Leave a comment
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Correspondence from the world of cardiology.

Inspiring the next generation of cardiac specialists: learning from the British Association of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons undergraduate course

Dear Sirs,

Medical and surgical cardiology are among the most competitive specialties to enter. In 2010, there were 6.0 applicants for every specialty training (ST3) post for cardiothoracic surgery1 and 5.7 for cardiology.2 Bearing in mind that these competition ratios represent the competitiveness after the longlisting and shortlisting stages, they represent intense competition for admission into these specialty programmes.

The changes brought in by the modernising medical careers (MMC) programme have meant that aspiring cardiologists and cardiothoracic surgeons have only 18 months after graduation to decide whether these career choices are for them.3 Considering the business of the Foundation Programme, it may be that aspiring cardiac doctors need to decide even earlier, as medical students. Whilst most medical schools will have a cardiology rotation, and some cardiothoracic surgery experience, these are primarily educational and do not serve to inform students about how to enter into the respective specialty training programmes.

The British Association of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons (BAPRAS) recently held its seventh course for medical students. These courses are very informative and educate students about the breadth of the specialty, and perhaps more importantly to students and trainees, what it takes to be admitted into plastic surgery specialty training. It has been shown that students significantly improve their plastic surgery knowledge, awareness of the work of a plastic surgeon, ability to perform basic plastic surgical skills and career interest in plastic surgery at these courses.4 Another course now in its fourth edition is the Undergraduate Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons conference, started by a motivated group of then medical students.

The utility of the BAPRAS course model has been recognised as a model for potentially increasing career interest, knowledge and skills of aspiring neurosurgeons.5 Orthopaedic surgeons also hold a “So you want to be an orthopaedic surgeon” course for medical students and foundation trainees. However, no such course currently exists to give aspiring medical and surgical cardiologists a first-person insight into the realities of these specialties.

We propose the establishment of a similar course, which would provide the knowledge, skills and insider career guidance to aspiring cardiologists and cardiothoracic surgeons in both Foundation training and medical school phases of their training. Such a course would not only be beneficial to those highly interested in these specialties, but may also inform others that these specialties are not for them.

Nigel Tapiwa Mabvuure
Medical student

David Ross McGowan
Medical student

Brighton and Sussex Medical School, University of Sussex, Brighton, East Sussex BN1 9PX


1. Carr AS, Munsch C, Buggle S, Hamilton P. Core surgical training and progression into specialty surgical training: how do we get the balance right? Ann R Coll Surg Engl 2011;93:244–8.

2. Royal College of Physicians. 2011 ST3 R2 competition ratios.  2011 (cited 10 November 2011); Available from:

3. Thomas R. How do doctors choose their specialty: first love, arranged marriage or second time around? And how may an affair with MMC change this? Clin Med 2008;8:490–2.

4. Davis CR, O’Donoghue JM, McPhail J, Green AR. How to improve plastic surgery knowledge, skills and career interest in undergraduates in one day. J Plast Reconstr Aesthet Surg. 2010;63:1677–81.

5. Kabwama S. Opportunities to improve undergraduate neurosurgery career interest, knowledge and skills: lessons from the BAPRAS undergraduate courses. Br J Neurosurg 2011;25:783–4.