Independent Cardiothoracic Residency Program

Program Description

The division of cardiothoracic surgery at the Keck School of Medicine of USC is committed to offering its residents excellence in all aspects of cardiothoracic training. The program is designed to address the basic fund of knowledge in our field, establish excellent technical skills and develop the finest cardiothoracic surgeons in the country. Under the leadership of Vaughn Starnes, MD, chair of the Department of Surgery, the division of cardiothoracic surgery has remained at the forefront of new technology. This enables our trainees to offer cutting-edge techniques to potential practice opportunities upon graduation.

The core curriculum and extensive case volume, combined with the diversity of the hospitals in which our residents train, help ensure that these goals are met. When residents complete the program, they are highly skilled in the operating room, academically comprehensive, and have earned the respect of their peers and faculty.

Program Overview Video

Cardiothoracic Residency Virtual Tour


The Cardiothoracic Surgery Training Program has enjoyed a long tradition in leadership, beginning in 1948 under the tutelage of founder John Jones, MD, a pioneer in thoracic surgery. Dr. Jones administered the program throughout his long and prestigious career at the Hospital of the Good Samaritan and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. Accreditation was granted by the ACGME in 1965. In 2017, Dr. Craig Baker accepted the role of Chief of Cardiac Surgery

The transition of the primary program site from the Hospital of the Good Samaritan to the Los Angeles General Medical Center began in 1990. This was driven by several events that impacted the academic environment. The appointment of Tom DeMeester, MD, as professor and chairman, Department of Surgery at USC; the opening of the new Keck Hospital of USC in 1991; and in 1992, the appointment of Vaughn A. Starnes, MD, as the co-chairman, Department of Surgery, and chief, cardiothoracic surgery, led to a logical transition of the program to the University. Dr. Starnes assumed the role of the director of the Cardiothoracic Surgery Training Program upon his arrival at USC, and resident activity was concentrated at Los Angeles General Medical Center, Keck Hospital of USC/Norris Cancer Center and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. Over the following decade, the Cardiothoracic training program at USC evolved into one of the premier training sites in the United States, producing highly qualified and talented cardiothoracic surgeons. In 2004, Dr. Winfield Wells was appointed program director after numerous years serving as a tireless resident advocate. He ushered in a new era of training, ensuring academic excellence in a changing environment. As a reflection of continued growth and advancement, in 2006, Dr. Starnes was appointed executive director of the newly formed Cardiovascular Institute (CVI). This independent model breaks down traditional barriers in patient care and allows collaboration between cardiothoracic and vascular surgeons, cardiologists, anesthesiologists, pulmonologists and basic scientists working as one, without the domains of departments or specialties. In addition to permitting delivery of preeminent patient care in the treatment and prevention of cardiovascular and thoracic diseases, the CVTI allows training of a new breed of surgeon cross-trained in different disciplines.

In 2006, Dr. Starnes was appointed chair of the Department of Surgery. Craig J. Baker, MD, was appointed as the vice chair of surgical education at that time and assumed the role of program director of the Cardiothoracic Surgery Training Program in 2010. Dr. Baker has achieved national recognition for his involvement in cardiothoracic education. He developed a comprehensive educational curriculum, including a highly structured simulation training program. In 2017, Dr. Baker was appointed the Chief of the Division of Cardiac Surgery.

The independent thoracic surgery fellowship program offers a robust educational curriculum designed to complement our strong clinical programs. Rotations are designed to offer wide exposure to high-volume academic, community-based, and safety-net models of practice. Fellows in their final years are expected to operate as primary surgeon in nearly all cases across the breadth of cardiac and thoracic surgery, including minimally invasive cardiac surgery, heart and lung transplant, mechanical circulatory support, adult congenital surgery, robotic thoracic surgery, and complex open and endovascular aortic procedures. Those interested in congenital cardiac surgery may pursue elective time at the world-renowned Heart Institute at the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles. Weekly resident and fellow-led didactic sessions maintain a strong focus on board exam preparation and compliment the broad clinical curriculum.

Residents in thoracic surgery will have access to our state-of-the art simulation center, including unrestricted access to our renowned fresh tissue dissection lab. click For more information about the Surgical Skills Simulation and Education Center, please.

Monthly Conference Schedule

Los Angeles General Medical Center

The newly designed Los Angeles General Medical Center opened its doors in 2008 and sits adjacent to the historic General Hospital building in an area just northeast of downtown Los Angeles. The facility encompasses 1.5 million square feet, with 600 inpatient beds and 132 Emergency Department beds. Over half of the resident rotations will be at Los Angeles General Medical Center. A few unique features of this hospital are listed below:

  • Serves as one of the busiest level 1 trauma centers in the nation and treats over 28% of trauma victims in the region; also serves as the US Navy’s Trauma training center
  • One of only three burn centers in the county, and one of the few Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Units in Southern California
  • Employs approximately 1,500 attending physicians, 1,000 interns and residents, 3,000 nurses at all levels, and trains several hundreds of students in various healthcare professions
  • Prides itself on serving any patient that comes through its doors regardless of socioeconomic or insurance status

Keck Hospital of USC

Keck Hospital is a 401-bed university-affiliated teaching hospital within walking distance of County and employs over 700 faculty physicians. On average, the hospital performs over 18,000 outpatient and inpatient surgeries annually. As a tertiary/quaternary referral center, Keck provides care for the most acute and complex medical and surgical issues. A significant number of resident rotations take place at Keck.

Children’s Hospital Los Angeles

CHLA is one of the busiest children’s hospitals in the nation with over 17,000 surgeries performed annually. Residents spend time rotating on the pediatric surgery service here. Those interested in pursuing pediatric surgery fellowship can easily find mentorship and research opportunities within the department.

PGY 6-8

CardioThoracic rotations (12 Months)
Cardiac Keck Hospital
Thoracic Keck Hospital
VAD / Transplant Keck Hospital
Cardiac Los Angeles General Medical Center


The Independent Cardiothoracic Training Program at USC is currently accepting applications for two residents per year and accepts application through the Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS). You must also register with the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP).

Our requirements for application include:

  • Common application form
  • Personal statement
  • Medical school transcripts
  • MSPE/dean’s letter
  • Letters of recommendation (minimum of three)
  • Photograph
  • USMLE transcripts
  • ABSITE transcripts
  • ECFMG status report – foreign graduates only

March 3, 2023

Craig J. Baker, MD
Program Director
Chief of the Division of Cardiac Surgery

Elizabeth (Eli) Agraz-Sanchez, MHA
Residency Office | Division of Surgical Education

Alejandra Orozco
Program Coordinator

Keck School of Medicine
University of Southern California
1520 San Pablo Street, Suite 4300
Los Angeles, CA 90033

Office: 323. 442. 5832
Fax: 323. 442. 5959

The Division of Cardiac Surgery:

The Division of Thoracic Surgery:

The Aortic Center:

Faculty in the News: (Chronologic)

Social Media

Craig Baker appointed Chief of Cardiac Surgery