Additional evidence showing the benefits of Surgical Coaching was recently published in Annals of Surgery. This NIH-funded study was a collaboration between the Michigan Bariatric Surgical Collaborative and members of the Academy team. We asked if surgical coaching improved surgeon operative performance. We found that surgical coaching helped reduce surgeon operative time, reducing average operative time from 92.5 minutes down to 78.5 minutes, a difference of 14 minutes (15%).

Figure of research results showing change in operative time before and after surgical coaching

What was the program?

The setting was the Michigan Bariatric Surgical Collaborative (MBSC), a state-wide network of surgeons that share details about their practice to improve surgical care for patients. In 2015 to 2018, in collaboration with the Academy for Surgical Coaching cofounders Caprice Greenberg and Sudha Pavuluri Quamme, MSBC rolled out a coaching program to improve operative performance.

Who Participated in the Program?

The top-performing surgeons in MSBC were selected to receive surgical coach training. The remaining MSBC-enrolled surgeons were invited to participate and receive coaching. In total, the program trained 14 Surgical Coaches, enrolled 26 surgeon participants, and analyzed a panel of 24 surgeons who met the inclusion criteria to serve as a non-interventional control. The Surgical Coaches and surgeon participants met, on average, for six 1-hour coaching sessions. Outcomes were evaluated through participant feedback and systematic collection of procedural data within the MSBC.

What do these results mean? 

This program was the largest clinical study of the benefits of surgical coaching to date, and one of the first interventional studies of Surgical Coaching to evaluate short-term operative outcomes. This research adds to the body of Surgical Coaching literature that has demonstrated that Surgical Coaching is feasible and acceptable for busy surgeons in practice (1, 2), has a high perceived value for professional development (1, 4), can increase safe adoption of new beneficial techniques (3), can improve teamwork, communication, and awareness in OR (4, 5), has potential to improve surgeon well-being and patient outcomes (4, 5).

  1. Greenberg CC, et al. A Statewide Surgical Coaching Program Provides Opportunity for CPD. Ann Surg. 2018; 267(5):868-73
  2. Pradarelli JC, et al. Surgeon’s Coaching Techniques in the Surgical Coaching for Operative Performance Enhancement (SCOPE) Program. Ann Surg. 2020. Online
  3. Greenberg JA, et al. A structured, extended training program to facilitate adoption of new techniques for practice surgeons. Surg Endosc. 2018;32(1):217-24
  4. Pradarelli JC, et al. Surgical Coaching for Operative Performance Enhancement (SCOPE): skill ratings and impact on surgeons’ practice. Surg Endosc. 2020. Online
  5. Greenberg CC, et al. Association Between Surgeon Technical Skills and Patient Outcomes. Ann Surg. 2021;155(10):960-8

In this continuation of myth-dispelling posts about Surgical Coaching, we take on the misconception that coaching is punitive. The idea that only “bad” surgeons need a coach is particularly perplexing to me, given the easy-to-make but not-entirely-accurate association I’ve observed between surgical coaching and sports coaching.

In sports, all athletes have a coach, not just struggling individuals. It goes without saying, then, that the best athletes also work with a coach. Michael Jordan, Serena Williams, Tom Brady, Mia Hamm, Roger Federer… all had or still have coaches throughout their careers. 

And it’s not that these superstars only worked with a coach occasionally. To the contrary, their coach was an integral part of every day on the job. None of these elite professionals said, “Well, I already get better every day, so I probably don’t need a coach.” In fact, they’d be at a competitive disadvantage if they didn’t have a coach.

The best performers, like Serena Williams, have coaches throughout their careers. Source: Chris Trotman/Getty Images North America, 2017,


Similarly, top performers in many fields outside of sports have a coach to help them push the limits of their performance. Business executives work with coaches to improve their leadership skills and better position their companies for growth. Vocalists and dancers such as Beyoncé can attribute at least part of their worldwide successes to coaching. Elite violinists like Itzhak Perlman appreciate the distinct advantage they have when an external ear lends critical feedback on their performance.

Teachers, like surgeons, have complex and unpredictable jobs that directly affect human lives. Instructional coaching has taken off recently to help teachers improve their classroom instruction for students. Many schools and entire school districts have embraced this concept and hired coaches specifically to support teachers in serving their students’ needs as best they can.

If elite performers in athletics, business, and music have coaches, and if everyday teachers get coaching to improve their performance, why wouldn’t surgeons do the same when the health and lives of patients are at stake? Surely, we surgeons want to get better for our own sake, but as competitive individuals by nature, don’t we also want to get a leg up on that practice down the road? The benefits of coaching on your practice are countless. Surgical coaching is not punitive; in fact, it should feel like punishment to not have a Surgical Coach.


I welcome responses of support or challenge to this myth about surgical coaching. Contact us to inquire further! We look forward to hearing from you.





Jason C. Pradarelli, MD, MS

Medical Director | Academy for Surgical Coaching

One of the biggest challenges we encounter at the Academy for Surgical Coaching is overcoming misperceptions of what a Surgical Coach actually does. Without having the right expectations, you’re at risk of disappointment if you’re a surgeon looking to work with a Surgical Coach.

Misunderstandings of what a Surgical Coach does commonly fall into the following themes: 

  1. an association with sports coaching, 
  2. a belief that “coaching” is punitive, 
  3. the expectation that your coach is supposed to give you advice, and 
  4. surprise upon learning that you are in charge of your own learning content. 

For the purpose of you having a great experience that matches your expectations, I am writing a series of posts to dispel myths about surgical coaching.


Myth Debunking Part 1: Your Surgical Coach Is (Likely) Not the Same as Your Former Sports Coach

For many surgeons, the first image that comes to mind when they hear the word “coach” is an athletics coach. And that’s not just the image of a random person. Frequently there is a vivid image of a man yelling at players from the sidelines, neck veins bulging. This stereotype of a coach drawing up plays on a clipboard, blowing a whistle at practice, and barking instructions at players is an effect of the availability heuristic. 

This is NOT how Surgical Coaches are expected to coach. Source: Gary Mook/ALLSPORT/Getty Images, 2018,

According to the Decision Lab, a behavioral science research firm, the availability heuristic describes our tendency to use information that comes to mind quickly and easily when making decisions about the future. The ease of drawing on this image of a yelling coach comes from widely televised sporting events, media coverage of coaches with extravagant post-game interviews, and perhaps your own experiences with your children’s or your former youth soccer coaches. 

For example, a common adage we encounter over the course of surgical training is that “surgery is a team sport.” While another stereotype that doesn’t apply to everyone, many surgeons are competitive individuals, and this personality trait often stems from a personal history of playing sports. Because of the frequency of images crossing our screens and the familiarity with our prior experiences, it is easy to erroneously associate all types of coaches with an athletics coach.

But this mental shortcut may lead you astray when you work with a Surgical Coach. Coaches in surgery don’t carry clipboards and whistles. They don’t yell at the surgeons with whom they work. They don’t simply tell you what to do. And they aren’t stereotypically men.

Surgical Coaches, on the other hand, are closer to professional coaches in business, education, or music. An effective Surgical Coach is a masterful communicator who asks insightful questions to understand your motivations and maximize your potential as a professional. Unlike the yelling coach on the sidelines, a coach in surgery creates a welcoming space for you to reflect on your practice away from the heat of the moment in the operating room. This approach creates the space necessary for genuine, adult learning.

Because of these fundamental differences, your Surgical Coach should be pleasantly different from a traditional sports coach.


I welcome responses of support or challenge to this myth about surgical coaching. Contact us to inquire further! We look forward to hearing from you.





Jason C. Pradarelli, MD, MS

Medical Director | Academy for Surgical Coaching