Advanced GI MIS Fellowship Program

Program description

Our mission at USC is to train outstanding surgeons with clinical competence and excellent technical skills in all areas of laparoscopic surgery: foregut, bariatrics and general surgery. We take pride in offering one of the most diverse clinical fellowships in the country, incorporating comprehensive training in bariatric surgery (including revisional cases), foregut surgery (both benign and malignant diseases), general MIS surgery (abdominal wall, solid organ and robotics) and advanced endoscopy. Our fellows have gone on to obtain positions in prestigious academic medical centers and coveted community practices.

The USC Advanced GI MIS Fellowship Program is under the direct supervision of Dr. Namir Katkhouda, who has more than 30 years of experience in advanced laparoscopic surgery and originally pioneered many operations. We have graduated over 30 fellows to date. The relationship between Dr. Katkhouda and the fellows is comparable to an apprenticeship, with strong, personal, hands-on teaching in the operating room. He shares the tips and wisdom that he has accumulated over the years to allow fellows to be safe and confident in any situation. The fellows’ skills gradually build up from the basic to the most advanced procedures, with an emphasis on intracorporeal suturing. In addition to laparoscopic bariatric procedures, fellows gain experience with a variety of advanced laparoscopic procedures, including splenectomy, adrenalectomy, and inguinal/ventral hernia repair.

The operative experience with Dr. Lipham, Dr. Bildzukewicz, Dr. Sandhu, Dr. Samakar, Dr. Houghton and Dr. Dobrowolsky also exposes fellows to a large number of advanced laparoscopic foregut procedures, including esophagectomy, gastrectomy, Heller myotomy and Nissen fundoplication. Fellows will also gain extensive experience in upper endoscopy (EGD) and will gain significant exposure to robotic surgery using the da Vinci Surgical System (we also have a robotic simulation module). While at USC, fellows will have liberal access to our accredited skills center and animal lab.

At USC, we have a strong research interest, and fellows and faculty members meet frequently to discuss current research projects. Past fellows have presented at both regional and national conferences. We have an active research fellow and multiple projects at different stages of development that also will involve the clinical fellows. The program supports fellows with conferences, publications, and academic positions after the fellowship.

The Advanced GI MIS Fellowship Program at USC is a strong bariatric program (most anastomoses are handsewn) with outcomes to match. In addition, there is a strong focus on foregut physiology and technique (due to the strong influence of Dr. Tom DeMeester). Clinical research is very important, with our efforts being rewarded on a national level. We have a fully funded lab for training (skills center and wet lab) with a great availability of animate models for training. Our fellows are highly sought after in California, and all of our previous fellows were able to obtain great jobs following completion of the fellowship.

USC values diversity and is committed to equal opportunity in employment. Men, women and members of all racial and ethnic groups are encouraged to apply.

Hospital rotation sites

  • Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian
  • Keck Medical Center of USC

The fellowship is structured with each fellow performing three-month rotations between the hospitals.

The rotation at the Keck Medical Center of USC will consist of advanced training in all areas of minimally invasive, bariatric and robotic surgery, as noted above. While rotating at the Keck Medical Center of USC, there also will be an opportunity to spend some time at the Verdugo Hills Hospital, a nearby community hospital affiliated with USC. Verdugo Hills Hospital is located 10 miles north of USC and offers a rapidly expanding bariatric, foregut, robotic and MIS experience with Dr. Sandhu and Dr. Samakar. In addition, there is ample opportunity for laparoscopic colorectal surgery and/or endoscopy.

At both hospitals, our surgeons perform complex abdominal wall cases, including component separation, retrorectus repair, transverse abdominus release (TAR) and laparoscopic inguinal hernia repair (both TAP and TEPP). There also is ample opportunity for fellows to participate in advanced diagnostic and interventional endoscopy, including Apollo overstitch procedures, POEM and endoscopic GERD therapies (Stretta). There also is exposure to single incision approaches for both laparoscopic and robotic procedures. Fellows will be given staff privileges and increasing autonomy as their clinical skills allow.

At Hoag Hospital, the emphasis is purely on advanced endoscopy and laparoscopic foregut surgery. Each fellow will have the opportunity to work closely with Dr. Lipham, Dr. Bildzukewicz and Dr. Houghton. The procedures range from laparoscopic Nissen fundoplications and paraesophageal hernia repairs to the complex resections for esophageal and gastric malignancies. In addition, fellows will gain extensive experience with laparoscopic lower esophageal sphincter augmentation (using the LINX device). Fellows are also expected to actively participate in clinic, evaluating patients for possible surgery and managing their care postoperatively.


Our Advanced GI MIS Fellowship is accredited by the Fellowship Council. We use their match system to accept applications and match with our fellows. The following link will direct you to the fellowship council application page:

Citizenship and visa requirements:

  • U.S. citizens
  • U.S. permanent residents (Green Card)

Medical school requirements:

  • We only accept graduates of U.S. or Canadian medical schools

Examinations and certifications:

  • Applicants must have passed the USMLE/COMLEX Step 1, 2 & 3 exams
  • Applicants must be ABS or Canadian Board eligible or certified
  • Applicants must be AOBS (American Osteopathic Board of Surgery) eligible or certified

Licensure requirements and information:

Unfortunately, we do not accept candidates on an H1B Visa or foreign nationals (Canadian citizen candidature is dealt with on a case-by-case basis and is based on preliminary discussions). J-1 Visas are accepted in most cases. Full medical licensure in the state of California is a requirement. It usually takes at least six months to obtain the medical license, so it is important to start the application process early (soon after the fellow is matched).

Contact information

Alejandra Orozco
Fellowship Coordinator
Division of Surgical Education
Keck School of Medicine of USC
1520 San Pablo Street, HCT 4300
Los Angeles, CA 90033
Phone: (323) 442-8168

Program Director, Nikolai Bildzukewicz

Associate Program Director, Adrian Dobrowolsky