The Duke Neurosurgery Difference

Residency Coaching Program

Duke Neurosurgery Residency has a novel coaching program, with specific objectives for trainees at every stage of their residency career.


Collaborative Coaching Program with Psychology Interns

This program aims to improve physician well-being and combat burnout by fostering meaningful relationships between psychology interns and neurosurgery residents. It's built on a friendship between a resident and a psychology graduate student, benefiting both as a trained listener and stress management support.


Group Coaching with Duke University Health System Coaches

Group coaching sessions are built into the regular weekly conference time over the course of the academic year. Coaches explore specific themes with junior residents: Building emotional intelligence; dealing with uncertainty; coping with difficult emotions during patient care; and setting goals.


Clarifying and Articulating Values

As trainees move into senior residency, they receive individual and group coaching sessions with an executive coach to step more fully into leadership roles. The focus is on clarifying and articulating their personal values.


Individual and Group Coaching Focused on Leading Teams

During the chief year, more comprehensive executive coaching supports residents in their new leadership roles. In addition, they receive the Reflective Best Self 360 evaluation designed to highlight each resident’s strengths.


The Business of Neurosurgery

Senior residents participate in a series of workshops on beginning careers as neurosurgeons. Each session is designed to provide practical guidance for navigating early career decisions.

Program Improvement

Duke Neurosurgery residents collaborate with leadership and faculty to guide continuous improvement in the training program. A resident-chosen group of trusted faculty – nicknamed the Gang of Five – meet with the residents every other month, alternating with meetings with leadership. These meetings allow for feedback and program changes, producing many new opportunities over the years that have improved the well-being and education of the residents.

Physician Scientist Track

Trainee in a lab

Residents have the opportunity to select a formal research training track in the junior resident years. This can be coupled with basic science grant funding through our NIH R25 training grant. Residents within this track work with mentors and a selected advisory committee to guide design and conduct of a focused research project within their field of interest.

Educational Conferences

Our weekly education conferences consist of a department wide conference from 7:00am to 8:00am and a resident education conference from 8:15am-9:30am.

The department conferences consist of resident led case conferences, monthly Morbidity and Mortality conference, guest speakers, mock oral boards, and guest speakers from Duke University and other institutions.

The resident education conferences cover a wide range of neurosurgical topics rotating over a three-year curriculum. These conferences are led by senior residents and faculty focusing on basic knowledge and surgical decision making.

Clinical Case Conference

This conference occurs every other Tuesday evening and chief residents present interesting recent cases from their service. Faculty then provide education and clinical pearls around surgical decision making and techniques.

A lecture hall


Duke's  Neuro-Innovations Program offers a one-of-a-kind opportunities for residents to formally foster and advance the types of additional interests that will make them highly desirable in the field.

Surgical Autonomy Program

Duke Neurosurgery’s residency program is designed to maximize academic and surgical potential in a collaborative environment that optimizes individual patient care and more global contributions to the field of neurosurgery. For example, our novel Surgical Autonomy Program (SAP) permits all residents to advance through specific steps for every type of operation, culminating in their ability to perform all procedures with minimal supervision.

In this article in the journal Neurosurgery, Duke Neurosurgery faculty and residents describe the SAP at work. In a pilot study, they combined social learning theory with a  competency-based scale to study an anterior cervical discectomy and fusion, with three individual residents taught by a single faculty member. 

Here's residency program director Michael Haglund, MD, PhD, describing the SAP: