CORE Curriculum Review Helps Prepare Cardiovascular Thoracic Surgery Residents to Take Board Exams

Jess Gomez

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MURRAY, Utah (9/13/2011) - More than 80 doctors from around the world are gathered at the Heart Institute at Intermountain Medical Center this week for a special conference that will prepare them to become the next generation of America's heart surgeons.

The physicians are attending the 19th annual CORE Curriculum Review, a four-day event that presents a comprehensive review of all aspects of cardiovascular and thoracic surgery. The course includes 21 faculty members giving "rapid-fire" lectures on 80 different subjects.

During the past two decades, the CORE Curriculum Review at Intermountain Medical Center has become the premier course in the country — and possibly the world — for cardiovascular thoracic surgery residents who are preparing to take their board exams. Approximately 80 percent of all cardiovascular surgery residents from around the country attend each year, as well as a handful of participants from Europe and Asia.

"This is a fantastic experience. It condenses and highlights everything you need to know," said Tara Karamlou, MD, a surgicalresident from Seattle Children's Hospital who plans to take the board exam for cardiovascular thoracic surgery this December.

The experience has been intensive, she said, particularly a mock oral exam in which she was grilled by three heart surgeons from Intermountain Healthcare.

"I wasn't quite ready for the questions on thoracic resections, but I got through it," she said.

The program was started in 1992 by cardiovascular surgeon Don Doty, MD, who was frustrated by heart surgery residents' dismal passing rates on their qualifying exams. About half of them failed each year, he said.

"There was a serious need to help them," said Dr. Doty, who is now emeritus director of the CORE review program. He created alist of critical topics and assigned them to his colleagues at LDS Hospital and to fellow faculty member from the University of Utah School of Medicine. They were given strict instructions: cover the topic in 20 minutes or less.

The program was an immediate success. Nearly 100 percent of residents who took the course passed the board exam.

Don Doty's son John Doty, MD, helped create the program when he was a first-year medical school student and took over as director of the conference when his father retired in 2005. He has expanded it include a course in London each spring, and has also presented the program in Australia and China. This summer, Dr. John Doty received a prestigious national award for his dedication to the clinical and educational development of thoracic surgery residents.

"None of the major universities are doing programs like this," said Dr. John Doty, a cardiovascular surgeon at the Heart Institute at Intermountain Medical Center. "Many residents are left to learn things more or less on their own during their training. We've proven there's a more efficient way to educate them, and the response has been remarkable."

Provo surgeon Lee McCann, MD, knows first-hand why the CORE Curriculum Review is critically important.

"As a resident, you're in the operating room, not a classroom. You're on call 24/7. You don't have a chance to read," said Dr. McCann, a 2005 graduate of the program and today a co-director of the course, along with Dr. John Doty and LDS Hospital cardiovascular surgeon Michael Collins, MD.

"We try to reach out to people earlier in their training so they're not cramming at the last minute."

The CORE Curriculum Review is a nonprofit event. Medical technology company Medtronic has sponsored the event since its inception.
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