Q&A: D.J. Darden, General Surgery Resident


General Surgery Resident

D.J. Darden


headshot of DJ Darden


Q: What made you want to be a surgeon?

I originally thought I wanted to do gynecology, but then I did my first trauma rotation. Getting that critical care experience made me realize that I needed to be a surgeon. I was like, “this is it. This is what I need to do.”

UF picked me, really. I was a preliminary resident for my first two years. When I reapplied to my surgical residency, I didn’t get a spot. Truthfully, it was a terrible feeling. But I continued to work. Back in Memphis, there was a trauma surgeon there who knew Dr. Sarosi. One thing led to another, and I was accepted here for my prelim spot. I worked my butt off. But after the second year, I did not match again. Which made it three times that I did not match. I was incredibly sad.

Q: What helped you decide to keep going?

There wasn’t anything else I wanted to do with my life. I couldn’t see myself being any other kind of doctor. I could only see myself doing surgery. So, after a long discussion, I went into Dr. Efron’s lab, to focus on sepsis and critical illness research. I worked on a T32 grant. I published several papers and worked very hard. Dr. Efron is probably one of the best mentors out there. He really helped me add more to my CV, and help it reflect my clinical interests. At the end of the two years of the T32, I was able to match into UF.

They made a spot for me here, and I’m super grateful for that. They believed I could do this and be a great surgeon, and appealed on my behalf.

Q: How does it feel now?

Wonderful. I’m on my third day of trauma currently, and I absolutely love it.

Q: Is there one moment that stands out to you in your training thus far?

I think when I got my contract from Dr. Sarosi, and Dr. Efron was like, “See. I told you that you could do it. You’re going to be the best surgeon in the world.” And I laughed, and said I didn’t believe him, but I was so excited to be here. I still am. It just gets better every day; Every day is more memorable. 

Q: What would you tell your past self, as she started on her path to being a surgeon?

I don’t know that I would tell her anything different than what she kept telling herself everyday.

I know you keep hearing it, but trust me – it will all work out. This is difficult, but it is exactly where you need to be. Keep going, the best is yet to come. Don’t forget to continue to lead by example. Continue to treat everyone with respect and everyone with compassion, because you never know where someone is in life. And as surgeon, that becomes very important. Not just for your patients, but also your colleagues, and your staff. Because that will make teamwork better, and translate to even better patient care.