Surgical Education

About Us

Education is a critical mission to the Department of Surgery faculty at SIU Medicine. We want our residents to challenge themselves to achieve their maximum capabilities as surgeons, but to do so in a positive learning environment that drives residents beyond what they thought was possible.

We have developed a dynamic clinical curriculum that prioritizes education over service, faculty are trained to teach and hired with clear expectations of their role as facilitators of learning, and an educational structure that values residents as a group and as individuals with separate learning needs and ambitions.

Today the SIU Department of Surgery consists of seven specialized divisions offering complex and innovative care for a range of diseases that require surgical intervention. A multidisciplinary approach to basic, clinical, and translational research has produced novel treatment options for some of our population’s most pressing medical needs. The Department of Surgery at SIU has a strong reputation for providing competitive and comprehensive training for surgical residents and fellows and for teaching medical students. The challenges of the future will be met by the next generation of physicians. The SIU Department of Surgery is preparing physicians and health care professionals to meet the demands of our community today and into the future.

Our History

“Central and Southern Illinois is a region of closely related towns interspersed within extremely rich farmland. Over 2 million people in this southern region of the state have a unique culture, rich in pioneer heritage and a strong midwestern social ethic. Prior to 1960, most perceived that sophisticated medical care was only available in St. Louis, Chicago, or major medical centers such as the Mayo Clinic. An emerging idea across the country to improve health care in rural regions centered on locating small community based medical schools within the regions of health care need. The idea was to train physicians for the region, to promote continuing medical education to local physicians, and to enhance medical services by establishing teaching hospitals with greater breadth in patient care.”

-J. Roland Folse, MD
Southern Illinois University School of Medicine
Department of Surgery History, 1999

J. Roland Folse, MD


Following the founding of the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine in 1970, Dr. Roland Folse was recruited as the first Chair of the Department of Surgery. Dr. Folse spent the following three decades building the Department of Surgery into the nationally recognized department that it is today. The SIU Department of Surgery has been an innovative leader in surgical education and a key player in the development of the regional academic medical center in Springfield. For example, Dr. Folse introduced the concept of nurse educators to provide operational support and daily supervision of the undergraduate teaching program in the Department of Surgery and participate in curriculum development and program evaluation for SIU. Dr. Folse and the Division Chairs throughout the years have focused on brining physicians to the department with an enthusiasm for education who will contribute significantly to undergraduate medical education. 

Gary Dunnington, MD

Gary Dunnington

Gary Dunnington, MD, succeeded Dr. Folse as Chair of the Department of Surgery. He led efforts and secured grant funding to establish the Surgical Skills Lab—one of the first in the nation. Skills labs have revolutionized surgical training. Using computer simulators and virtual reality technology, surgical residents learn basic skills like suturing and knot tying and more advanced laparoscopic techniques. Users also include primary care residents, faculty from emergency medicine, internal medicine, OB-GYN and third- and fourth-year students. Dr. Dunnington and other SIU faculty were integral in the development of a national curriculum for skills labs. SIU’s lab is a model for similar labs around the world. For a number of years, SIU hosted Surgical Skills Lab Workshops to assist other medical schools in building or enhancing a skills lab.

Hillary Sanfey, MD


Dr. Hilary Sanfey was Professor of Surgery and Vice Chair for Educational affairs in the Department of Surgery 2008 – 2020. She served as Chair of Surgical Education & Performance Group, where she guided and supported numerous research projects. She was Co-director for the course “Leadership for Health Professionals” a Master’s Program in Human Resource Education Development with emphasis on health profession education (Ed. M). Dr. Sanfey was a Faculty Advisor to the Surgery Interest Group and served as an advisor to many medical students and surgical residents. She also served as an advisor and consultant for the Association of Surgical Education (ASE) Surgical Education Research Fellowship (SERF), mentoring faculty, worldwide, in completing a surgical education research project. Dr. Sanfey was inducted as a Member of the American College of Surgery (ACS)  Academy of Master Surgeon Educators in 2018. Dr. Sanfey is internationally known for her research in the area of medical student and resident education and has co-authored 110 peer reviewed publications and review articles as well as written 29 book chapters contributing to improving surgical education. Dr. Sanfey retired as Professor of Surgery (Emeritus) in 2020. She continues to be a leader in national and international organizations that contribute to the betterment of surgical education.  

John Mellinger, MD

John Mellinger posing for a photo with arms crossed

John D. Mellinger, MD, FACS, currently serves as Vice President for the American Board of Surgery (ABS) and is Professor Emeritus of Surgery at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine (SIU) in Springfield, IL.  He is the former J. Roland Folse Endowed Chair in General Surgery, Professor and Vice Chair of the Department of Surgery, Professor in the Department of Medical Education, and Director of Leadership and Excellence for the Center for Human and Organizational Potential at SIU, having retired from those roles in 2021. Dr. Mellinger received his MD from Case Western Reserve University, and completed residency training in general surgery at the Blodgett/St. Mary’s Hospitals in Grand Rapids, MI, followed by a surgical endoscopy fellowship at Mt. Sinai Medical Center in Cleveland, OH.  He has also completed a Surgical Education Research Fellowship through the Association for Surgical Education (ASE).  He served on active duty in the United States Air Force, and has had academic appointments at Wright State University, Michigan State University, and the Medical College of Georgia prior to his most recent duties at SIU.  

Reed Williams, PhD


Reed Williams, PhD, was one of the leading medical education researchers, recognized world-wide for his innovative work in research and assessment. He was the founding chair of the Department of Medical Education at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine, serving in that capacity for 7 years. He became head of the Department of Medical Education at University of Illinois at Chicago, and later became Associate Dean for Undergraduate Medical Education. He returned to SIUSOM to the Department of Surgery in 2000, where he remained active even after his retirement in 2014.  He was named J. Roland Folse Professor of Surgical Education Emeritus, and Emeritus Professor of Medical Education.
He was instrumental in the development pf standardized patient technology and  co-developed the nation’s first senior comprehensive examination using only standardized patients. This work led to him assisting the NBME in developing USMLE Step 2 CS, only recently discontinued due to COVID.  
In his role as Vice Chair for Education and Professor in the Department of Surgery, he worked with Drs. Mellinger, Dunnington and Dr. Debra Klamen MD, MHPE, on developing, evaluating and disseminating research on operative performance, readiness for practice, and assessment of clinical performance and clinical decision making. 
He was recognized nationally and internationally for his contributions to medical and surgical education. He received the Merrell Flair Award for outstanding contributions to the field of medical education from AAMC.  He was one of three SIU SOM Faculty to receive the renowned National Board of Medical Examiners’ Hubbard Award in 2006 in recognition of his pursuit of excellence in the field of evaluation in medicine. His contributions to medical and surgical education have been profound, long-lasting and continue to guide the improvement of medical and surgical education.
Dr. Williams passed away on June 20, 2018.