Tohoku J. Exp. Med., 2020 October, 252(2)

Selection of and Retention in Surgical Specialty during Early Career in Japan


1Department of Cardiovascular Surgery, Tokyo Women's Medical University, Tokyo, Japan
2Department for Education Policy and Evaluation Research, National Institute for Educational Policy Research, Tokyo, Japan
3Department of Thoracic Surgery, Tokyo Women's Medical University, Tokyo, Japan
4Institute of Geriatrics, Tokyo Women's Medical University, Tokyo, Japan

The number of surgeons is decreasing in Japan. We investigated the trend and factors influencing surgeons' selection of and retention in surgical specialty. In 2016, we obtained data of biennial surveys conducted by the government, and analyzed the annual data of doctors up to the latest available survey at that time (survey, 1994-2014; medical license acquisition, 1993-2014). The rate of selecting surgery by male and female doctors during early career (first three surveys after acquiring medical license) decreased from 28.1% in 1994 to 21.3% in 2010 (first to nineth survey). Female surgeons increased from 7.8% in 1993 to 12.4% in 2003, but decreased from 12.5% in 2006 to 10.7% in 2010. Total number of surgeons declined throughout the period. In females, the rate of selecting surgery tended to increase at the beginning of the new training system in 2004, but declined slightly thereafter. The retention rate in those who selected surgery at least once by the third survey (1998) after acquiring medical license in 1993 showed a downward trend. The retention rate in females declined continuously to 48.4% in 2002, stabilized thereafter, and then increased from 47.6% in 2006 to 50.8% in 2014. The retention rate after 10 years (1993-2003) was almost stable (72.4%) in males, but increased to 57.5% in females, and the gender difference tended to decrease. Younger doctors tend to value their private life, and may not choose or continue to practice surgery unless working conditions in surgery improve and income is commensurate with their work.

Keywords —— generation gap; retention rate; selection rate; surgery; work-life balance


Tohoku J. Exp. Med., 2020 , 252, 95-102.

Correspondence: Yasuko Tomizawa, Department of Cardiovascular Surgery, Tokyo Women's Medical University, 8-1 Kawada, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 162-8666, Japan.


Presented at Forum Session at Clinical Congress 2018, American College of Surgeons, Boston, MA, USA.