Duration of knowledge in general thoracic surgery

John D. Urschel, Dorothy M. Urschel, Samuel M. Mannella, Joseph G. Antkowiak, Thomas A. Horan, W. Frederick Bennett, Richard F. Heitmiller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Background. Medical knowledge changes rapidly, so current medical education approaches emphasize the development of life-long learning skills ("teaching the learner to learn") as opposed to the simple acquisition of contemporary medical knowledge. Because there are no data on the rapidity of change of general thoracic surgical knowledge, we do not know whether this trend in medical education is appropriate for thoracic surgical trainees. We undertook a study to assess the duration of knowledge in general thoracic surgery. Methods. The first general thoracic surgery article from each issue of The Annals of Thoracic Surgery between 1965 and 1997 was abstracted into a summary statement. A form, made up of 360 summary statements in random order, was assessed by 6 general thoracic surgeons. They assessed statement validity on a 5-point scale (1 = statement false; 5 = statement true). Average statement validity scores for 30 time intervals were calculated. The relationship between time of publication and statement validity was analyzed. Results. Average validity scores ranged from 2.24 (represents 1965 to 1966) to 4.32 (represents 1969 to 1970). Validity scores increased with time (y = 3.46 + 0.017x, where y is validity score and x is time), and this was significant (r = 0.40; p = 0.027). However, the absolute change in average validity scores over the 33-year study period was only 0.52 or 13.1% of the "modern" era scores. Conclusions. The assumption that medical knowledge changes quickly may not be true in general thoracic surgery. Although life-long learning skills are important, general thoracic surgery training programs should continue to emphasize fundamental knowledge in the specialty.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)337-339
Number of pages3
JournalAnnals of Thoracic Surgery
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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