The Howard University surgical residency training program was initiated on July 1, 1936 at the then Freedmen's Hospital by Dr. Edward L. Howes, who was Chairman and Rockefeller Professor of Surgery at Howard University College of Medicine. Dr. Howes guided the program through its infancy while it grew from an initial complement of a single resident in 1936 to six in 1941, when Dr. Charles R. Drew became the professor and chairman of the department. Dr. Drew fostered the national and international development of the program with noble goals and ideas that were continued under the subsequent leadership of Drs. J. Richard Laurey (1950-1955), Clarence S. Greene (1955-1957), Burke Syphax (1957-1970), and Dr. LaSalle D. Leffall, Jr. (1970-1995).

The current chairman, Dr. Clive O. Callender assumed the chairmanship in January 1996. The achievement of board certification became one of the program's standards of excellence, and those who started the program instilled in those who followed a sense of tradition and legacy of achievement in making the department a success. Five of the first African Americans to receive board certification in a surgical specialty were Howard faculty members: Drs. Frank Jones (Urology, 1936), J. Richard Laurey (Thoracic Surgery, 1949), Robert Gladden (Orthopedic Surgery, 1949), Clarence S. Greene, Sr. (Neurological Surgery, 1953), and Samuel Rosser (Pediatric Surgery, 1975).


The Department of Surgery if proud of its residency training program and it strives to maintain a high standard in all spheres of surgical training. We are well aware that competent people are primarily responsible for the perpetuation of a superior quality training program. To that end, we are seeking the best applicants for the surgical residency. We are interested in applicants who are willing to work hard and strive for excellence. Where there is no commitment to excellence, there can be no excellence. In surgery, the residents must be mentally and physically strong-physically strong for the long, demanding hours that surgeons must spend in practicing their craft, and mentally strong to take the appropriate course of action when the patient's condition demands it. Technical dexterity and diagnostic skill combined with compassion make a great surgeon. The residents' commitment to excellence will not allow a shoddy performance, but impels them to do what is best, not just what is expedient. The patients' interests must always come fist. Two Latin expressions, mea culpa and primum non nocere, when heeded by residents, can serve as valuable guides for better patient care. We must always be our own severe critic and must constantly strive to do no harm. Furthermore, there can be no substitute for courtesy. Residents are expected to exhibit a warm, caring, compassionate, courteous, and sensitive attitude towards their patients. Without these qualities, the house officer cannot give care of the highest order. Surgeons must always try to do their best, and even when they fail they must fail while trying to perform at their highest level. It is also most important that house surgical officers remember to practice that highest standard of surgical discipline, "equanimity under duress." If the residents keep this high principle in the vanguard of their thought, they will maintain the equanimity necessary to meet even the most serious challenges in an appropriate manner. For those who are fortunate to become members of our residency program, we wish you a most interesting, stimulating, and challenging experience. The Surgical Faculty is committed to working with you as a team in achieving the high goals we have set for ourselves.


Dr. Burke Syphax is recognized as one of the foremost surgical educators in this country. Having served as Chairman of the Department of Surgery From 1957 to 1970, he continued as the senior Professor in the Department in which he has given more than a half century of service to the Department and the College of Medicine. His outstanding talents in teaching students, interns, residents, and colleagues, combined with superb service to patients, remain as living monuments to his efforts over the years. He is not only a master surgical technician, but also possesses impeccable clinical judgment. He is considered to be one of the best abdominal surgeons and has been aptly called "the master of the abdomen." One of his strong points has always been his great ability to see issues clearly and to act in a fair manner. This attribute has won him the respect and enduring admiration of his colleagues and students. In an unselfish manner, he gave faculty members the opportunities to increase in stature and to reach their potential by providing necessary support to aid them in the fulfillment of their goals. This is truly the mark of a great man. Moreover, he has helped to maintain a tradition of excellence within the Department.

"Dr. Dan"

DANIEL HALE WILLIAMS (1858–1931) was the first person in the world to operate successfully on the human heart. He performed that feat in 1893 at Provident Hospital in Chicago and went on to perform other history-making operations. In 1891 he founded Provident Hospital, first hospital and training school for African American nurses and interns in the United States. Appointed by President Grover Cleveland to head Freedman’s Hospital in Washington, D.C., Dr. Williams established a nursing school there for African Americans. His papers were printed in their entirety in the Annals of Surgery and in abridged forms in the Chicago Medical Recorder and the Illinois Medical Journal.

The Howard University Hospital Code Team is called in his honor.


Currently, the program in General Surgery consists of five years of post-graduate training with the residents rotating through the various specialties. Renewed emphasis is being placed on research, both clinical and bench. Faculty development is aimed at recruiting those who are not only clinically excellent, but also have a strong interest in research. Residents with strong interest in research are encouraged to spend two years in research after successful completion of the fist two years of core general surgery.


Greater Southeast Community Hospital (GESCH) is a reputed community hospital which gives exposure to a private surgical service with a large number of cases being performed monthly. At GSECH, depending on the interest of the resident, exposure may be obtained in other surgical specialties such as neurosurgery, orthopedics, urology, and vascular surgery.

Providence Hospital in Washington. D.C. is a private hospital with a very active surgical department. Upwards of 7,000 cases a year are performed at the hospital.

Washington Hospital Center has one Howard resident who rotates through the burn center and another who rotates through the surgical oncology service. These rotations enrich the experience of our residents in these two important components of surgery.

Children's National Medical Center has one Howard resident rotating there at any given time. This rotation increases his/her experiences in handling pediatric cases. By the time the residents have completed their postgraduate education, they have actively participated in the care of thousands of patients and have performed hundreds of major and minor operations in several specialties under the supervision of experienced surgeons. They will have also had the opportunity to teach medical students and to participate in research. In addition, the residents will also have achieved our prime objective which is that they become safe and competent surgeons ready to be certified by the American Board of Surgery.