The Department of Surgery of the Yale School of Medicine was founded in 1812 and is one of the oldest and most prestigious departments of surgery in the United States. The residency program was initiated in the Halsted tradition in 1916. In the early 20th century, successive chairmen of surgery, Drs. Joseph Flint and Samuel Harvey, formalized the Department’s emphasis on academic practice and research that persists to this day. During the 20th century, leading surgeon-scientists included Harvey Cushing (founder of the field of neurosurgery), Gustaf E. Lindskog (first use of pharmaceuticals to treat cancer), William W.L. Glenn (co-creator of the first external heart bypass pump, developer of the Glenn shunt for cyanotic congenital heart defects), Stephen Ariyan (plastic surgery and melanoma), Bernard Lytton and Robert Weiss (urology), C. Elton Cahow (hepatobiliary surgery), Clarence Sasaki (otolaryngology and head & neck surgery), and Robert J. Touloukian (management of necrotizing enterocolitis), Robert Udelsman (minimally invasive endocrine surgery).

Continuing this tradition, many residents in general surgery in the 21st century choose to participate in groundbreaking research during their surgical training. The Department has continued to grow in size and scope, with internationally-recognized leaders in trauma/acute care surgery, transplantation, endocrine and oncologic surgery, pediatric surgery, colon and rectal surgery, minimally invasive surgery, and thoracic surgery anchoring a diverse faculty of academic surgeons.