Surgical Skills Center

The University of California, San Francisco, renowned as one of the most advanced medical centers for surgical treatment, research and teaching, has established an ACS accredited Surgical Skills Training Center with the objective of improving the standards of surgical practice.  Conceived as a model to be replicated at medical centers elsewhere, the Center applies advanced simulation and virtual reality technologies to the training of surgical residents.  It serves the larger medical community by providing ongoing professional development and re-certification of practicing surgeons who need ongoing training to keep current in this rapidly advancing field.   The current state-of-the-art training of surgeons at UCSF and elsewhere, until recently, was accomplished largely on-the-job.  While certain procedures such as suturing and instrument use can be practiced with models in medical school and post-graduate programs, much of the skill set required by surgeons is mastered by working with live patients.  Often, the very first time a surgical resident is called upon to use a scalpel, tie a blood vessel, or perform some other fundamental procedure is in the operating room.  Intense supervision by experienced surgeons minimizes the risk to patients in teaching hospitals like UCSF's.  Compare this situation to the training of pilots, who spend hundreds of hours in simulated flight before they attempt to pilot an actual airplane full of passengers.  With the advent of virtual reality and computer simulators, surgical training can be made vastly more effective, with lower risk to patients.  In a safe, non-stressful setting where mistakes are simply corrected and viewed as a learning opportunity, surgical residents can hone their skills and long-time surgeons can acquire, maintain and learn new skills throughout their career, thus enabling surgeons to stay at the top of their profession. The Center represents the surgical training trend of the future and the standard by which all other programs are measured.        

The Vision 

UCSF Surgical Skills Training Center, is a cutting-edge, technologically-advanced facility to train surgical residents and provide continuing education and recertification opportunities to practicing surgeons.  Using simulators, virtual reality technologies, artificial and animal models, and an integrated curriculum, the Center teaches the use of surgical instruments, placement of venous lines, endotracheal intubation, suturing, vessel tying, and other basic, as well as advanced skills of surgical practice.  The Center serves established professionals, who can master the new skills and technologies that are emerging all the time, as surgical science continues to evolve and advance. The American College of Surgeons seeks to establish a select number of facilities around the country where surgical training can be improved and standardized, and professional development and recredentialing of practicing surgeons can also take place. UCSF, with its outstanding strengths across all surgical specialties, is uniquely poised to pioneer such a center.    Building on Existing Strengths The Surgical Skills Training Center will enhance the training power of a program that is already exceptional in its quality and scope. UCSF's Department of Surgery is considered a world leader in hepatobiliary/pancreatic, colorectal, gastrointestinal, bariatric, thoracic, cardiac, transplant, vascular and pediatric surgery. UCSF serves as a major clinical referral center, attracting surgical patients from around the world and treating some of the most complex and difficult cases.  Because UCSF is a premier biomedical research center, the translation of new findings to patient care and teaching is rapid and direct.   UCSF's Surgical Residency Program is the crown jewel of the Department.  Residents rotate through six different hospitals, including Mt. Zion Medical Center, Moffitt-Long Medical Center, San Francisco Veterans Administration Medical Center, San Francisco General Hospital, the region's designated trauma center, California Pacific Medical Center, and Kaiser Permanente San Francisco. Two-thirds of all UCSF-trained surgeons pursue careers in academic surgery, choosing to become educators in the field themselves.  UCSF's Department of Surgery plays a key role in shaping the career of many future surgeons and it continues to be at the forefront of surgical education by inclusion of surgical skills training in its curriculum.   

Training Sessions


  • knot  tying,   suturing,   instrument  handling
  • tissue  handling,   dissection,   simple  wound  closure
  • intubation,   cricothyroidotomy
  • central  venous  access,   cut downs
  • tube  thoracostomy,   thoracentesis
  • complex  wound  closure
  • bowel  anastomosis
  • vascular  anastomosis


  • endoscopy simulator
  • endovascular simulator 


Contact Information 

Wendy Fong
Operations Manager, Surgical Skills Center
UCSF, Mount Zion Campus
1600 Divisadero Street, C-315
San Francisco, CA  94143-1674
(415) 885-3708