General surgery, despite its name, is a surgical specialty that focuses on abdominal organs, e.g., intestines including esophagus, stomach, small bowel, colon, liver, pancreas, gall bladder and bile ducts, and often the thyroid gland (depending on the availability of head and neck surgery specialists). They also deal with diseases involving the skin, breast, soft tissue, and hernias.
With the prevalent trend for increasing sub-specialization in today's medical practice, General Surgery has lost most of its former glory and scope. Nonetheless, it continues to be a somewhat competitive, rewarding and demanding specialty in its own right. Until recently, all surgeons in the United States were required to be board certified by the American Board of Surgery in order to progress into further sub-specialty training .
However, recently, board certification has been delegated into separate sub-branches, whereby successful completion of a residency in General Surgery is not necessarily required, but may well be desired (depending on the country and area of practice, as well as the individual sub-specialty).