General Surgery

Welcome to the General Surgery Program

From the Program Director

Welcome to the General Surgery Residency Program at the University of South Dakota Sanford School of Medicine! Our program is the only general surgery residency in the state of South Dakota and focuses on rural general surgery training. The program was started in 2014 with the vision of training competent, confident and compassionate surgeons. The mission of our program is to train general (and specialty) surgeons who provide excellent surgical care to patients in rural parts of the country.

The concepts of graded and progressive responsibility under the guidance and supervision of faculty members, along with a focus on lifelong learning, are the core tenets of our program. We have surgery residents from varied backgrounds and from multiple medical schools across the United States. The distinctive healthcare characteristics of the Dakota region gives our residents a strong foundation and offers great opportunities to pursue a career in community-based general surgery in a rural health setting.

The faculty at USD SSOM/Sanford Health were trained at both community-based programs and academic centers from across the United States. I am a Renal Transplant and HPB Surgeon and I take Acute Care Surgery/Trauma calls as well. The size of our program (three categorical residents a year) and the absence of surgical fellowship programs allows one-on-one interaction with faculty with early and high volume of operative experiences to all residents.

Residents spend 53 months of their training, including the majority of subspecialty rotations, at Sanford USD Medical Center in Sioux Falls, SD. In addition, residents rotate through Avera Sacred Heart Hospital in Yankton for their rural experience for four months (two months each as a PGY-2 and PGY-3); the Sioux Falls Veterans Affairs Health Care System for two months (one month each as a PGY-1 and PGY-4 elective); and an optional PGY4 elective at John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital of Cook County in Chicago (one of the busiest trauma centers in the country) is available to residents for one month.

All residents are involved in patient safety/quality improvement projects as well as serve on various QI committees during their residency. Residents are expected to complete at least two research projects during their residency, present their findings at regional/national conferences and publish the data in a peer-reviewed journal.

During the pandemic crisis, I was proud to see how our residents adapted to the needs of our patients and stepped up to help them in any way they can. As a program director, it was truly a humbling experience for me to witness the positive changes and the leadership qualities our residents brought to work every day.

Please enjoy exploring our program’s website, where you will find additional information on our clinical rotations, conference schedule, benefits and living in Sioux Falls. We hope to see you virtually during the interview “trail” and get to know you better as you get to know our program.

Thav Thambi-Pillai, MD MBA FICS FACS
Professor and Vice Chair
General Surgery Residency Program Director


From the Department Chair

We are delighted to offer a general surgery residency that has been developed from its inception to produce primarily general surgeons to practice in rural or community-based hospitals across the country and abroad.

A central key to this program is there are no competing subspecialty residencies, thereby enhancing the resident’s subspecialty experience. This program will offer operative experience at a large surgical volume hospital, a VA experience, a renowned Level 1 trauma center experience and a community-based surgical practice.

We believe this residency will offer significant surgical education opportunities, with emphasis on producing competent, confident, well-equipped and well-trained general surgeons.

Gary Timmerman, M.D., F.A.C.S.

Department of Surgery Chair