The surgery and pediatric surgery residency programs at the University at Buffalo have received full accreditation, ending their stints on probation, university officials said Tuesday.
The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education in 2011 placed the programs on probation mainly for problems related to the teaching culture.
“It’s a relief,” said Dr. Roseanne Berger, senior associate dean for graduate medical education at UB. “The accreditation is a reaffirmation of what I was confident would happen in addressing the concerns.”
Residency programs provide on-the-job experience to medical school graduates training to become specialists. Loss of accreditation of a training program as large and important as surgery would have been a devastating blow for UB’s School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.
One other program, dermatology, encountered problems at UB.
UB closed its dermatology residency in 2013 after four faculty members left and the council withdrew its accreditation. UB reorganized the dermatology program and received full accreditation in late 2013. It is expected to begin training specialists in July.
“This is the best possible outcome,” Dr. Michael E. Cain, vice president for health sciences and dean of the medical school, said in a statement.
The accrediting agency made its decision last week based on data the university submitted about changes in the surgery and pediatric surgery programs, as well as a site visit by agency officials last October, according to UB.
UB, with its affiliated teaching hospitals, operates residency programs in 60 specialties.
Without a hospital of its own, UB arranges with local hospitals and their physicians to train residents in everything from anesthesiology to urology. The school’s 780 future medical specialists serve as a major provider of patient care for the hospitals and a key pipeline for supplying new specialists in Western New York.
The accreditation council does not disclose the reasons for its decisions. But residents and UB officials in interviews last year with The Buffalo News said the surgery program, with 51 residents currently in the program, did not have enough faculty doing research and failed to comply with a 2003 council directive to limit the work week for residents to 80 hours. Residents also complained about aspects of their experience, citing poor communication with supervising doctors as one shortfall.
“The issues that led to the probationary status were not related to the quality of the end product – our graduating residents. It was how we got to that end product,” said Dr. Gregory Cherr, associate professor and general surgery residency program director. “Many of those issues were addressed by allowing residents more opportunity to participate in the oversight of their educational program. That’s a good thing. They now feel more empowered and they have influence over how they are being trained.”
Cherr, who was appointed director in 2012, cited other changes: increased emphasis on teamwork, conference time for residents, criteria for faculty engagement and accountability measures, and the enhancement of simulation skills training.
UB recently recruited a new chief of pediatric surgery, Dr. Carroll McWilliams Harmon. He also is pediatric surgeon-in-chief at Women & Children’s Hospital. There is one fellow, a graduate of a residency undergoing continued training in a subspecialty, enrolled in the two-year pediatric surgery program.
ACGME has moved away from a system of reviewing medical school residency programs episodically every few years. The organization in 2013 began to phase in a system in which it monitors data from schools on key performance measures and visits the schools every 10 years after an accreditation decision.