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Scrub Caps Off

Scrub Caps Off aims to highlight the strong work that Canadian Chief General Surgery Residents are doing across the country. After nearly five years of working as clinical resident, after untold numbers of call shifts, and having seen the highs and lows of the profession, we believe these leaders deserve to have their accomplishments shared. Each month, we'll profile a chief from one of our different programs. After all they've done, our hats go off to them.

Have a specific question you'd like us to ask Canadian Chief Residents? Send it to Melissa Wood, the coordinator of Scrub Caps Off, at m.wood@usask.ca. We look forward to hearing from you!


Robin Visser

University of Manitoba

February 2017

 

 

 

1) So what is next?  Where are you off to in July? Have you already lined up a job or a fellowship or are you still keeping your options open?  

I’m really excited to be going to Toronto to do a fellowship in hepatobiliary. I felt like I won the lottery when I matched and I’m just so honoured to have the opportunity to go live that experience.

 

2) What are you going to miss the most about residency?

I’m going to miss my colleagues. We’re all a pretty close-knit group in Winnipeg. Despite working in relatively big hospitals (500-800 beds), I feel like I personally know most people in every department and we always stop to chat when we pass each other in the hallway. That doesn’t just apply to the medical staff but to all the support staff as well. It’s really nice to have that personal connection. It makes coming into the hospital every morning feel like I’m walking through the front door at home. That’s a pretty special feeling and I try to celebrate it.

 

3) Where did you grow up and what did you do in your life before medicine? Not just professionally, but did you have any hobbies or passions that you still pursue?

I grew up in Ottawa, ON. For undergrad, I did a combined honours in Humanities (philosophy, religion, history, and art) and Biology. I took an extra year so that I could do an honours project in both majors, partly out of pure interest and partly because I had no idea what to do with my life. Thank goodness one of my philosophy professors pulled me aside one day and said, “why don’t you try medicine?” It hadn’t even been on my radar before that but I took his advice and the rest, I guess, is history.

In my spare time, I’m an outdoor sport junkie. If it’s outside and active, I’m in! My favourite sports lately have been canoeing and road cycling. I love getting out in the backcountry and Manitoba has some amazing lakes and rivers to explore. Even a short weekend spent camping feels as restorative as a whole week spent on vacation doing something else. In my 3rd year, my husband and I cycled unsupported from Paris, France to Amsterdam, Netherlands. It was our first ever cycling trip and we totalled over 1000km. We literally put our bikes together in the Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris and then took them apart 16 days later at the airport in Amsterdam. It was an amazing trip and I’d love to do more cycle touring in the future.

 

 

4) What is the most memorable thing that you have done outside of surgery in the last five years?

I didn’t want to put my life on hold when I got into surgery because I knew it would be a long haul and I wanted to stay balanced. In 2nd year, I married my amazing husband and this year, we welcomed our daughter into our family. Balancing a surgical career and family is hard, full stop. I don’t always succeed but I do give it my best effort and I think the struggle is worth it. Each part of my life inspires the other: I feel like I can better relate to my patients by being a mother and wife myself. When I come home, I’m humbled by our privilege of good health and actively seek to celebrate les petites joies with my family that, because of my patients, I cannot take for granted.

 

 

5) Do you have any call superstitions or routines?

Yes, absolutely. First and foremost, one must never say the word Q-iet. Ever. I can’t even type it because I’m on call as I write this. Secondly, one of the first things I do when I start a call shift is wander around the hospital to see who else is on over night. This is partly to know who’s around in case I need to call them later about a patient and partly to inquire if anyone wants to order dinner with me. Food acquisition is the first step to eating, even if you don’t get to eat right away. Lastly, I always grab a hand towel from the ward linens when I finally get to hit the call room. I put it over the pillow so I don’t have to sleep with the plastic right next to my face. It’s the one call room hack that I wish I’d figured out sooner because it has made a big difference in how comfortably I sleep at the hospital.

 

6) If you could give some words of wisdom to new Residents starting General Surgery (or to your past self on the first day of residency) in the light of everything we're facing these days across Canada (limited jobs, duty hour restrictions, more and more specialization), what would it be?

I think my advice would come in 3 parts:

First: All for one, one for all. You will never make it across the finish line if you don't do it as a team. The team is everything, it has to come first. Be altruistic, help out whenever you can. Show kindness. Use your strengths and know your weaknesses. Learn to ask for and accept help when it's your turn. Geese don't fly south by always being in the same position within the V. They take turns being the lead and then enjoying the draft. You're all on the same journey, get there together.

Second: Be grateful for hardship. Laundry doesn't become clean by lying around on the bed. It has to be put in hot water, tumbled around, spun down, and hung up to dry. The mentors who are the hardest on you are the ones who will make you better. Compliments, while nice, rarely improve you. Criticism, while uncomfortable, can transform you- provided that you are open to it. Tough call nights with difficult cases are exhausting but that’s where you learn the most. So be grateful for hardship.

Third: Acknowledge the privilege you have in hearing patients’ most intimate details of their lives, in knowing their bodies in a way their mothers and fathers / husbands and wives will never know, and be humbled by the trust they put in you to guide them on their journey. There is no room for ego here. Treat every patient like they are your mother. Cut away their disease meticulously. Sew them back together tenderly. Attend them on the ward perioperatively in order to rejoice in their healing and grieve in their setbacks. They are the heart of what you do. Never forget that.

 

7) Rapid fire:

What do you listen to in the OR? I have pretty eclectic tastes in music, so almost anything is ok unless it’s classic rock.

What is the operation you dislike the most? Breast lumpectomy.

What is the operation you like the most? Ooh, that’s tough. I don’t know if I can choose between a liver resection and a whipple. Ask me again after fellowship.

What is your favourite medical TV show? Scrubs. I’ve only ever watched the first season but it was uncanny in its accuracy.

What is your go-to surgery textbook? Top Knife when I’m on trauma call and Schein’s Common Sense series for acute care surgery.

Favourite post-call activity? Spending time with my family. Often, this involves cycling or going cross-country skiing together.

What is your favourite “go-to” food on call? Vegetarian sushi, because it’s not going to get cold or spoil if you can’t eat it right away.

White coat or hoodie? 100% hoodie. I can’t remember the last time I wore my white coat.

Single or Double Glove? Depends on the patient… but usually single glove.

Dry scrub or wet scrub?  Wet scrub. I love the wet scrub.

Trauma laparotomy or elective Whipple? Whipple J

Inexperienced junior resident or inexperienced ER staff? Inexperienced junior. I like to teach.

Open inguinal hernia repair or laparoscopic? Can I answer both? I guess if I had to choose, I’d choose lap.

Monocryl or skin staples? Staples

Perianal abscess I+D or ingrown toenail?​​​​ Toenail! I love doing toenails! So satisfying.

 

 


 

Riley Stewart

University of Dalhousie

January 2017

 

Q1) It is your Chief year! Did you ever believe this year would come? How would you reflect on the journey overall thus far? 

Last year in residency; it really went by in no time. It’s pretty amazing to look at the new PGY-1’s and to reflect on how much residency teaches you. Exams coming up though, still so much knowledge to gain. It’s been a great time though.

 

Q2) So what is next?  Where are you off to in July? Have you already lined up a job or a fellowship or are you still keeping your options open?  

In July 2017 I’ll be starting an MIS fellowship at Dal.

 

Q3) What are you going to miss the most about residency?

Someone under you doing the scut work?! Joking. The comradery with likeminded people working through the same intense training. People to vent frustrations with and share in many good laughs.

 

Q4) Where did you go to medical school and how did you come about the decision to specialize in General Surgery? Was it something you gradually got into or is there an "aha" moment from your background or training?

I went to Dalhousie medical school. Prior to that I did an undergrad in Kinesiology. I always knew I wanted to do surgery but with the kinesiology background I thought I would want to do orthopedic surgery. I did an elective in Ortho in first year medical school and knew that was out. I tried general surgery next and immediately knew that’s what I wanted to be doing; sick patients, diverse diseases and surgeries, and a real chance to make a difference.

 

Q5) Where did you grow up and what did you do in your life before medicine? Not just professionally, but did you have any hobbies or passions that you still pursue?

I grew up in Halifax, finished high school in Ottawa and did undergrad and grad school at the University of Waterloo. I spent a lot of time playing pool and soccer growing up and continued soccer through most of medical school. I picked up squash late in University and that is my go to physical activity in residency.

 

Q6) What is the most memorable thing that you have done outside of surgery in the last five years?

My wife and daughter occupy the vast majority of my free time outside of surgery. My wedding, the birth of my daughter and many other family times are a continued source of lasting memories for me.

 

Q7) Do you have any call superstitions or routines?

I’m not very superstitious. I have no routines on call per se, I do feel that a slow on call night is followed by a busy one so I tend to find out what the previous night was like when I’m on call.

 

Q8) If you could give some words of wisdom to new Residents starting General Surgery (or to your past self on the first day of residency) in the light of everything we're facing these days across Canada (limited jobs, duty hour restrictions, more and more specialization), what would it be?

My only advice is don’t take any experience for granted. It’s easy to let things early in residency pass thinking you’ll get more chances. See as much as you can.

 

Q9) Rapid fire:

a.     What do you listen to in the OR? Whatever the staff listens to. When it’s my turn to decide probably nothing. I like music to relax. Silence helps me focus.

b.     What is the operation you dislike the most? I don’t really care for hepatectomies.

c.     What is the operation you like the most? Lap Chole.

d.     What is your favourite medical TV show? I don’t watch much TV now, when I was in my late teens I watched ER.

e.     What is your go-to surgery textbook? Mastery of Surgery.

f.      Favourite post-call activity? Gym, or hang out with my wife & daughter.

g.     What is your favourite “go-to” food on call? ICU snack bar: pop, chocolate, chips.

h.     White coat or hoodie? Hoodie.

i.       Single or Double glove? Double glove: 1 for me and 1 for Hep C.

j.       Dry scrub or wet scrub?  Wet Scrub.

k.     Trauma laparotomy or elective Whipple? Whipple – great dissection.

l.       Inexperienced junior resident or inexperienced ER staff? Inexperience junior resident any day of the week.

m.   Open inguinal hernia repair or laparoscopic? Laparoscopic Hernia (or any surgery for that matter).

n.     Monocryl or skin staples? Monocryl unless for big midline

o.     Perianal abscess I+D or ingrown toenail?​​​​ Perianal Abscess I & D – So satisfying.

 

 


 

David Carver

University of Ottawa

December 2016

 

A reunion at the American College of Surgery Clinical Congress this year in Washington with friends from the 2012 CaRMS tour - from left to right: Sean Bennett (PGY3 CIP, Ottawa), Cecily Morgan-Jonker (PGY5, UBC), myself (PGY5, Ottawa)

 

Q1) It is your Chief year! Did you ever believe this year would come? How would you reflect on the journey overall thus far? 

It has been a challenging but very rewarding 4 years! I can't imagine doing anything else.

 

Q2) So what is next?  Where are you off to in July? 

Have you already lined up a job or a fellowship or are you still keeping your options open?  

I'll be heading to Calgary for a Trauma and Acute Care Fellowship in July, 2017.

 

Q3) What are you going to miss the most about residency?

We're a big family here in Ottawa. I'll miss the familiar faces and the common experiences that I've shared with my colleagues. 

 

Q4) Where did you go to medical school and how did you come about the decision to specialize in General Surgery? Was it something you gradually got into or is there an "aha" moment from your background or training?

I went to medical school at Dalhousie (Halifax, NS). As with most things in my life, I lucked out and had a chance to work with an excellent mentor who happened to be a general surgeon. The rest is history.

 

Q5) Where did you grow up and what did you do in your life before medicine? Not just professionally, but did you have any hobbies or passions that you still pursue?

I'm originally from Charlottetown, PEI. Anyone who's spent time with me knows that I'm a very proud Islander. I was fortunate to have a fairly direct route from high school, to a biology degree at Acadia University and on to medical school. I served a few scoops of ice cream and spent a few summers in the lab to keep me busy along the way.

 

Q6) What is the most memorable thing that you have done outside of surgery in the last five years?

I recently travelled to India and Dubai with my wife, Andrea. With the exception of a few weekends away near Ottawa, this was our only real trip during my residency training. We were away for 2 weeks and I strongly encourage my colleagues to get away for a longer trip at some point during residency!

 

Q7) What was the absolute funniest moment during your residency?

Let's just say it involved a prolapsed rectum, a dozen sugar packets, and a patient who refused to stop eating their toast and peanut butter as I reduced their presenting complaint.

 

Q8) Do you have any call superstitions or routines?

 I never make plans while on call – it’s a recipe for disappointment.

 

Q9) If you could give some words of wisdom to new Residents starting General Surgery (or to your past self on the first day of residency) in the light of everything we're facing these days across Canada (limited jobs, duty hour restrictions, more and more specialization), what would it be?

Life gets a lot easier if your professional priorities revolve around your patients. Residency is not just about getting to the finish line or getting ahead. If you prioritize your patients, your colleagues and your mentors notice this and everything else (day-to-day interactions with your staff, independence inside and outside the OR, fellowships, jobs) becomes easier.

 

 

White water rating during a University of Ottawa general surgery resident retreat

 

Q10) Rapid fire:

  1. What is the operation you dislike the most? The one ahead of us on the emergency OR list.
  2. What is the operation you like the most? A nasty Hartmann's or an easy gallbladder.
  3. What is your go-to surgery textbook? Junior years - Sabiston's. Senior years - Cameron's and anything else that helps me answer the question.
  4. White coat or hoodie? White coat
  5. Single glove or double glove? Single
  6. Dry scrub or wet scrub? Dry
  7. Trauma laparotomy or elective Whipple? Trauma Whipple
  8. Inexperienced junior resident or inexperienced ER staff? Inexperienced junior resident - I can teach them something!
  9. Open inguinal hernia repair or laparoscopic?  Open
  10. Monocryl or skin staples? Staples
  11. Perianal abscess I+D or ingrown toenail?​​​​ Perianal!

 


 

Scotty Rieder

University of Western Ontario

November 2016

 

Q1) It is your Chief year! Did you ever believe this year would come? How would you reflect on the journey overall thus far? 

In actual fact, I am amazed how quickly residency has gone by!  The journey has been demanding, but overwhelmingly rewarding.  There are thousands of people who would drop everything to do the work we get to, so I am forever grateful for being able to do general surgery.

 

Q2) So what is next?  Where are you off to in July? 

Have you already lined up a job or a fellowship or are you still keeping your options open?  

Currently I am seeking a clinical fellowship in pediatric surgery, and will be moving to Ottawa to do a clinical research fellowship!

 

Q3) What are you going to miss the most about residency?

My co-residents. We've been through hell and back again together, and it will be hard to say goodbye my amazing friends.

 

Q4) Where did you go to medical school and how did you come about the decision to specialize in General Surgery? Was it something you gradually got into or is there an "aha" moment from your background or training?

"Captain hook, I've had an apostrophe!”.... "That's an epiphany Smee."  I went to medical school at Western and thought I would follow in my dad’s footsteps and become a pediatrician.  Then I did inpatient pediatrics and was dying to return to the OR.

 

Q5) Where did you grow up and what did you do in your life before medicine? Not just professionally, but did you have any hobbies or passions that you still pursue?

My formative years were spent in Tecumseh, a small town outside of Windsor.  Growing up I loved getting outside, sailing on the Detroit River and of course playing my bagpipes.

 

 

 

Q6) What is the most memorable thing that you have done outside of surgery in the last five years?

It would be a legendary scotch-tasting trip through the highlands of Scotland with my friends.  4 guys, one small Vauxhall and an unquenchable thirst for adventure (and scotch).

 

Q7) What was your most memorable night on call?

My most memorable call was with a senior resident mentor and current trauma fellow, Dr. Dave Paskar.  We call is "The day of 3 A-cases".  Three patients needing emergent laparotomies presenting within 10 minutes of each other.  It was a wild day!

 

Q8) What was the absolute funniest moment during your residency?

When Jimmy was found under the bridge at CAGS.

 

Q9) How about the scariest moment during your residency?

Being blamed for Jimmy being found under the bridge by Dr. Leslie. 

 

Q10) Do you have any call superstitions or routines?

None, I'm not superstitious.... not even a little bit "stitious."

 

Q11) If you could give some words of wisdom to new Residents starting General Surgery (or to your past self on the first day of residency) in the light of everything we're facing these days across Canada (limited jobs, duty hour restrictions, more and more specialization), what would it be? Don't let speculation and pessimism preclude you from doing one of the most rewarding careers possible.  Surgery is rapidly evolving, and with that comes immense opportunity if you are willing to rise to the occasion.

 

 

 

Q12) Rapid fire:

  1. What do you listen to in the OR? Anything by Ronnie James Dio
  2. What is the operation you dislike the most? A low anterior resection on a morbidly obese man
  3. What is the operation you like the most? Lap right colectomy
  4. What is your favourite medical TV show? Rick and Morty
  5. What is your go-to surgery textbook? Cameron's
  6. Favourite post-call activity? Large meat-filled sandwich and Guinness
  7. What is your favourite “go-to” food on call? Shawarma.... unleash the garlic
  8. White coat or hoodie? White coat... It's Doctor, not dancer
  9. Dry scrub or wet scrub?  Wet then dry
  10. Trauma laparotomy or elective Whipple? Trauma lap
  11. Inexperienced junior resident or inexperienced ER staff? ER doc - a good junior is worth their weight in gold, a good ER doc still goes home after 8 hours
  12. Open inguinal hernia repair or laparoscopic? Open for the first time
  13. Monocryl or skin staples? Monocryl 

Perianal abscess I+D or ingrown toenail?​​​​ The toe fo'sho

 


 

 

Benjamin Wykes

Northern Ontario School of Medicine (NOSM)

Oct 2016

 

1) It is your Chief year! Did you ever believe this year would come? How would you reflect on the journey overall thus-far? 

It was difficult but worth it.

 

2) So what is next?  Where are you off to in July?  Have you already lined up a job or a fellowship or are you still keeping your options open?

I'll be doing some locums and extra training in anticipation of a job opening in 2018 once a colleague retires.

 

3) What are you going to miss the most about residency?

Nothing.  Well, maybe the reassurance of a staff person in the background, for support.

 

4) Where did you go to medical school and how did you come about the decision to specialize in General Surgery? Was it something you gradually got into or is there an "aha" moment from your background or training?

I attended the University of Manitoba medical school but the decision to specialize in General Surgery came much earlier than that.  I was 4 or 5 years old, watching operations in the Veterinary Clinic where my Mom worked and that was when the interest really started.

 

5) Where did you grow up and what did you do in your life before medicine? Not just professionally, but did you have any hobbies or passions that you still pursue?

I grew up in Kenora, Ontario and still enjoy fishing, camping and hunting.  I did many things in my journey to medicine and I've been working since I was 11 years old.  Some of the jobs I've had include "horticultural technician" (lawn mowing), "hydrocarbon dispenser" (gas jockey), packaging in a lumber mill, skinning hams at Maple Leak Pork (one every 6 seconds or so, usually >2000/day), small engine mechanic (everything from chainsaws to large boats), "doorman" (working as a bouncer at a club with a metal detector) and several TA positions while at University.

 

6) Do you have any call superstitions or routines?

My wife isn't allowed to ask how the night is going; every time she does it all goes to hell.

 

7) If you could give some words of wisdom to new Residents starting General Surgery (or to your past self on the first day of residency) in the light of everything we are facing these days across Canada (limited jobs, duty hour restrictions, more and more specialization), what would it be?

Use every possible opportunity and rotation (even off service ones) to improve your skills.  Surgery is not learned from a book and we face difficult decisions on a day to day basis. The more discussions you have around cases and the more surgeries you see and do, the better able you will be to function independently.

 

8) Rapid fire:

What do you listen to in the OR? The nurses 

What is the operation you dislike the most? Breast anything 

What is the operation you like the most? Anything other than breast 

What is your favourite medical TV show? They're all misleading and ridiculous.  Surprisingly, the most accurate one I think I've seen in Scrubs 

What is your go-to surgery textbook? Cameron

Favourite post-call activity?Sleeping 

What is your favourite “go-to” food on call? Whatever I can get 

White coat or hoodie? Neither (I sweat a lot) 

Single glove or double glove? Single.  During my time at Maple Leaf I got frostbite a few times now if I double glove my hands go instantly numb 

Dry scrub or wet scrub? Dry 

Trauma laparotomy or elective Whipple? Trauma 

Inexperienced junior resident or inexperienced ER staff? Junior resident every time.  They do less damage 

Open inguinal hernia repair or laparoscopic? Open 

Monocryl or skin staples? Monocryl

Perianal abscess I+D or ingrown toenail? Ingrown toenail, only because they smell marginally better 

 


 

 

Suzie Harriman

University of Saskatchewan

Sept 2016

 

 

1) It is your Chief year! Did you ever believe this year would come? How would you reflect on the journey overall thus-far? 

NO I definitely did not think this year would come so fast… scary!! It’s amazing how fast the time has gone, but yet I don’t know if I could do it all again!? This journey has been so amazing and I’m so proud to be where I am. At the same time this journey has been so exhausting and trying for both my family and myself. I would never have made it here if I didn’t have the most amazing and supportive husband. My whole family have been such an incredible support group and kept me going during the rough times. We are so lucky at the U of S to work with such a great group of staff and fellow residents. I’ve really formed a lot of great relationships over the five years and really wouldn’t have changed much at all.  

 

2) So what is next?  Where are you off to in July?  Have you already lined up a job or a fellowship or are you still keeping your options open?

Things are still a little up in the air…. I took some time off the have the cutest little boy in the whole world (best decision of my life) so it put my timeline off a bit. I am hoping to do an Acute Care Fellowship, just not sure where or when quite yet...

 

3) What are you going to miss the most about residency?
Haha, is this a trick question?! Actually I’m going to miss support from your fellow residents that know what you’re going through and dealing with the same struggles in the day. Also, operating when you know you always have backup is pretty nice as well. I often think of that first call shift as a staff… sounds scary!

 

4) Where did you go to medical school and how did you come about the decision to specialize in General Surgery? Was it something you gradually got into or is there an "aha" moment from your background or training?

I went to medical school at the University of Saskatchewan. I honestly spent most of clerkship trying to like something else. But there was just something about general surgery that was just too appealing. I just thought it was all so cool! It was always general surgery. Never even considered a different surgical specialty.

 

5) Where did you grow up and what did you do in your life before medicine? Not just professionally, but did you have any hobbies or passions that you still pursue?

I grew up all over the place. We moved around a fair bit since my dad was in the RCMP. Before medicine I played basketball, a lot. I played tons of sports in high school and then basketball in university. Between sports and school, it took up most of my time.

 

6) What is the most memorable thing that you have done outside of surgery in the last five years?

 Had a baby…

 

 

 

7) What was your most memorable night on call?

Too many to pick just one… I love the nights where the delirium sets in around 1am and everything becomes funny somehow.

 

8) What was the absolute funniest moment during your residency?

One night when we operated on an inmate from the prison; just before taking him into the OR, he shimmied out of his shackles and handed his chains to the guard. I think the reaction of the staff made it all that much funnier.

 

9) How about the scariest moment during your residency?

When I was on trauma call and there were three pediatric traumas that came in that night. One reminded me so much of my son I could barely run the trauma, and the other had an awful outcome for a little boy. So incredibly heart breaking! I do not like sick kids!!!!

 

10) Do you have any call superstitions or routines?

Nope. But I try to facetime my son before bedtime if I can!

 

 

 

11) If you could give some words of wisdom to new Residents starting General Surgery (or to your past self on the first day of residency) in the light of everything we're facing these days across Canada (limited jobs, duty hour restrictions, more and more specialization), what would it be?

You have to do what you love. If you truly love what you do everyday, you’ll be happy and good at it, and you just have to believe the rest will sort it self out.

 

12) Rapid fire:

What do you listen to in the OR? Honestly anything besides heavy metal. Yes, even country!!!

What is the operation you dislike the most? Wire-guided breast lumpectomy

What is the operation you like the most? Hmmm... an open right hemicolectomy is pretty fun

What is your favourite medical TV show? The Mindy Project

What is your go-to surgery textbook? Sabiston

Favourite post-call activity? Brunch! I love brunch with my family!!

What is your favourite “go-to” food on call? Not picky, pretty much anything I can find to snack on will suffice.

White coat or hoodie? I can honestly say I don’t know where my white coat even is.

Single glove or double glove? Double glove

Dry scrub or wet scrub? Dry scrub

Trauma laparotomy or elective Whipple? TRAUMA LAPAROTOMY!!!

Inexperienced junior resident or inexperienced ER staff? Hahahaha, ummm…. Obviously inexperienced jr resident!!

Open inguinal hernia repair or laparoscopic? Open for sure! I spent four years trying to understand the groin anatomy and I never want to forget it!

Monocryl or skin staples? Skin staples!

Perianal abscess I+D or ingrown toenail?​​ Ew, obviously the abscess.

 


 

 

Reagan Maniar

University of Manitoba

June 2016

1) It’s your Chief year! Did you ever believe this year would come? How would you reflect on the journey overall thus-far? 

It's getting fairly late in the year now,  so I'm certainly facing the reality that the end of residency is near and the exam is right around the corner. The journey has had its up and downs, but at the end of the day there have definitely been more positives. 

2) So what is next?  Where are you off to in July?  Have you already lined up a job or a fellowship or are you still keeping your options open?

I am extremely excited to be heading to Vancouver to do a Colorectal Fellowship at UBC. I’m really looking forward to starting with the group there and having the experience of moving to a new city for a couple years. 

3) What are you going to miss the most about residency?

The main thing I'll miss is the people in the program, from our support staff and nurses to the other residents and attendings. U of M has a relatively small program so everyone knows each other well and tries to help each other out. I'll also miss my co-chiefs. We've been training together for a long time now, and even though at times you drive each other a little nuts when you're studying, we've all really supported each other at times through the last year. It’s nice to have a group of people around who you can talk to, joke with or vent to when needed.  Despite all the stress there tends to be a lot of laughter at our study sessions. It will be weird not to see everyone on a weekly basis anymore!

4) Where did you go to medical school and how did you come about the decision to specialize in General Surgery? Was it something you gradually got into or is there an "aha" moment from your background or training?

I went to medical school in Winnipeg at the U of M and was potentially interested in surgery from the start. However, I didn’t know for sure that I wanted to do General Surgery until my surgery block in clerkship. I had enjoyed ICU and some of my other rotations, but as soon as I rotated through our Acute Care Surgery service I was totally sold. I loved close to everything about it; being in the OR, the busy call, the wide range of pathology and patients. 

I distinctly remember one night we took a patient to the OR for a bowel obstruction in a virgin abdomen. We found an intra-luminal mass at the transition point, so the attending performed an enterotomy to figure out what was causing the obstruction. He proceeded to pull out a full floret of undigested broccoli that was causing the blockage. It was simultaneously disgusting, hilarious and rather impressive. Moral of the story is not to gum Chinese food if you lose your dentures! I think finding that case more amusing than repulsive kind of solidified that I would do fine in General Surgery though. 

5) Where did you grow up and what did you do in your life before medicine? Not just professionally, but did you have any hobbies or passions that you still pursue?

As a fairly typical Winnipeger I grew up in the city and have done all my training here. I have a really close group of friends and family here, who have been a great support while going through residency. When I first started university I was interested in pursuing either medicine or fine arts. I had hoped to keep painting throughout med school and residency, but that’s been challenging during surgical residency. Hopefully once I’m finished training I’ll be able to pick up painting again.  

My husband and I also both love to travel and explore new countries. We’ve managed to visit some pretty amazing places during my training including Kenya, Greece, Vietnam, Hong Kong, and just recently Nicaragua. We also like to travel for music festivals and have been to several big festivals around the US, UK and Canada. Plus we go to the Winnipeg Folk Festival religiously every year with friends. I’m looking forward to hopefully getting to some festivals out West over the next couple years with the move to Vancouver. 

6)  If you had to go back and do something else, anything other than medicine, and more specifically surgery, what would it be?

That’s a tough one for me. There really isn’t much else I’d rather be doing to be honest. Having just come back from a trip, I’ve always thought being able to make a career out of travel would be amazing. That being said, I think even now the job security is still probably better in surgery! 

7) What was the absolute funniest moment during your residency?

There have been many funny moments over the years. It would be hard to pick just one. Plus the very best of them are probably best not shared here!

8) How about the scariest?

think my first ED thoracotomy still stands out in my mind. It happened on either my first or second senior call shift in 3rd year. I'd literally looked it up earlier that night. It felt very surreal when it was happening. But it's one of those things that once you've actually done it, you feel a little bit more confident that you'll be able to handle the crazy stuff that gen surg residency sometimes throws your way. 

9) What is your favourite “go-to” food on call?

Black coffee is my only must. Other than that whatever is available whenever there is time to grab something! However, nights where we are able to order in dinner with the team and actually sit down and enjoy it will be some of my favorite memories. Thai, Indian, Vietnamese and sushi tend to be the go to’s on those nights. 

10) If you could give some words of wisdom to new Residents starting General Surgery in the light of everything we're facing these days across Canada (limited jobs, duty hour restrictions, more and more specialization), what would it be?

I’d say just keep your head down and work hard, enjoy and immerse yourself in the job and try not get caught up in those outside things. Trying to remain positive and pleasant to work with even when you’re tired and stressed goes a long way at the end of the day. I certainly keep trying to remind myself that as chief year is coming to a close! There will be tough times in residency and you will be busy and work hard in General Surgery, but it is also fun, exciting and every day is different.  If you are passionate about it and enjoy the work, it’s an extremely rewarding career. Ultimately, I am really happy this is the path I chose. I can’t imagine doing anything else, nor would I want to. 

 


 

 

Audrey Bouffard-Cloutier

Universite de Sherbrooke

April 2016

1) It’s your chief year! Did you ever believe this year would come? How would you reflect on the journey overall thus-far?

When I was a junior resident, I was really impressed by my chief residents, how they were so accomplished and knowledgeable. I aspired to be as good as they were. And here I am, 5 years later! At first, it appeared unattainable. However, when you’re in your final year, you realize how many difficulties you overcame and how much you’ve grown! The last 5 years went by so fast! Now I’m excited to take on new challenges after my exams!

2) So what is next? Where are you off to in July? Have you already lined up a job or a fellowship or are you still keeping your options open?

During one of my elective rotations in Edmundston, I was offered a job; it was exactly the kind of job I wanted! I will work in a community hospital with excellent colleagues. It is a city where I can practice a lot of outdoor sports and activities.

After obtaining a few years of experience, I plan to do some international health work. I have already done some rotations in Africa and Haïti, and they were wonderful experiences.

3) What are you going to miss the most about residency?

The teamwork! It is a big part of survival in a surgical residency. The teamwork also makes it fun. I will miss my fellow residents and my attendings. I have made many new friends and I will cherish all the memories we have shared. I certainly won’t miss the workload!

4) Where did you go to medical school and how did you come about the decision to specialize in general surgery? Was it something you gradually got into or is there an “aha” moment from your background or training?

I trained at the Université de Sherbrooke. I’ve always wanted to be a surgeon. When I was a child, I watched a medical show (not like Grey’s Anatomy!) where surgeries were shown and explained… I was incredibly captivated. Over the years, I have evaluated other professional options. In the end, I knew that I was made for general surgery.

5) Where did you grow up and what did you do in your life before medicine? Not just professionally but did you have any hobbies or passions that you still pursue?

I grew up in a small town in Eastern Quebec.

Apart from school, I was implicated in many sports, particularly short track speed skating for over 20 years. I qualified to go to Canadian and North American championships. I competed until clerkship, then it became too difficult to continue. I’ve remained extremely active throughout residency. It’s my stress reliever!

I have been introduced to the piano at a young age and I completed my training at the music conservatory. Unfortunately, during residency, I haven’t had much time to play piano. I am looking forward to restarting after residency.

Another passion of mine is traveling all around the world. I enjoy surfing, trekking, relaxing and scuba diving. I enjoy meeting new people and getting to know their culture.

    

6) If you had to go back and do something else, anything other than medicine, and more specifically surgery, what would it be?

I think I would be a veterinarian.

7) What was the absolute funniest moment during your residency?

One morning, I was rounding on my vascular patients and the resident who was on call the night before told me that the nurses had lost one of my patients during the night. They had looked for him everywhere. They finally found him “french kissing” another patient in the same room (my patient was in delirium). It was a funny situation!

8) How about the scariest?

I do not recall any scary moments, but I have had many stressful ones. I was the senior resident on call (also covering vascular surgery) and it was very busy. I met the vascular surgeon who told me that she was waiting for a patient with a ruptured aortic aneurism. At the same time, my friend (also a general surgery resident) called to tell me his grand-father was coming to the hospital with a ruptured aortic aneurism. It turned out that it was the same patient!!! The patient arrived hemodynamically unstable so we went to the OR straight away. No matter what we did, we were not able to save him. He died on the table. It was a very difficult time…

9) What is your favorite “go-to” food on call?

Definitely a grilled-cheese and chocolate milk!

10) If you could give some words of wisdom to new residents starting general surgery in the light of everything we’re facing these days across Canada (limited jobs, duty hour restrictions, more and more specialization), what would it be?

Everyone has to work hard to get to where they are. You will be pushed to your limits, but you will grow from your experiences. Getting a job may not be easy, but if you work hard you will achieve your goals.

Remember to be kind to your patients, to your colleagues, to the nurses and everyone around you. You don’t get through residency alone!

During your residency, you have to be patient with yourself. You will make mistakes. Learn from them. You will have good days and bad days: learn how to cope and how to relax.

Most importantly, you have to keep a balanced life during residency. Studying is important, but so are your other activities (sports, movies, restaurants, …). You may not have time to maintain all of your hobbies, but make time for your most important ones! Make sure you stay healthy.

 


 

 

David Nathan Ginther III          

University of Saskatchewan

Feb 2016

                                          

Me and a baby I delivered while on elective in Kenya

Q1) It’s your Chief year! Did you ever believe this year would come? How would you reflect on the journey overall thus-far? 

It is with a bittersweet mixture of eagerness and fear that I think about the end of residency. I’m very ready to be finished this stage, but also aware of the sheltered nature of residency – soon the safety net will be gone, and the responsibility of practice makes me pause and, truthfully, often be afraid. This has been a very long road with a high price paid by myself and my family, but it’s been worthwhile and most of the time I think I’d do it again. 

Q2) So what is next?  Where are you off to in July?  Have you already lined up a job or a fellowship or are you still keeping your options open?

I’m feeling pretty fortunate because I had several very good job prospects and simultaneous fellowship options, and I just had to choose. I’ve accepted a colorectal surgery fellowship in Winnipeg.  I am excited to start that chapter in my life and thereafter, to join the surgical workforce.\

Q3) What are you going to miss the most about residency?

Being sheltered from paperwork. And always having someone else more experienced to consult on problems.

Q4) Where did you go to medical school and how did you come about the decision to specialize in General Surgery? Was it something you gradually got into or is there an "aha" moment from your background or training?

All my education so far has been at the University of Saskatchewan, and I think it’s really top-notch training. General surgery was a gradual process overall, but the true point of decision happened at about 2:30 AM in the operating room in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. We were in the midst of a resection of necrotic small bowel, in a very smelly theatre (as only necrotic bowel can smell), and I realized that I was still happy to be there. I figured if you can like what you do in the middle of the night in an unpleasant atmosphere, it must be the right career choice!

Q5) Where did you grow up and what did you do in your life before medicine? Not just professionally, but did you have any hobbies or passions that you still pursue?

I grew up mostly in small-town Saskatchewan, and had a number of occupations before medicine: framer, wildland firefighter, telecommunications technician. I’m grateful for those experiences because they really formed my work ethic and motivation to have a career that was primarily about helping others.

I’ve given up most of my hobbies, as being a resident and father to two young girls doesn’t leave much free time. Despite that, I’ve managed to hang onto backcountry hiking and camping, and usually can get at least one good trip in per year.

Q6)  If you had to go back and do something else, anything other than medicine, and more specifically surgery, what would it be?

I love flying, particularly helicopters. If I had to choose something else, it’d be helicopter aviation.

Q7) What was the absolute funniest moment during your residency?

Definitely the deep, guttural, and sustained laugh from a patient when I asked him if the enema had worked – it had. It was infectious and had everyone, including the medical students and MRP, laughing alongside.

Q8) How about the scariest?

Without doubt, the scariest moments are when the phone rings from the occupational health nurse calling to let me know results of my latest blood work after a HCV needlestick injury. Thankfully I’ve remained negative, but those moments seem to affect your whole life and they don’t get any easier.

Q9) What is your favourite “go-to” food on call?

Almonds and Tim Horton’s coffee.

Q10) If you could give some words of wisdom to new Residents starting General Surgery in the light of everything we're facing these days across Canada (limited jobs, duty hour restrictions, more and more specialization), what would it be?

This is all temporary, and the market will find equilibrium sooner or later, so just focus on getting the best education you can. Residency is self-directed, and the success of it is largely up to you. I’d repeat what someone told me: residency is a 5-year job interview, and the best way to be successful after it is to be successful during it. And when its up to us, let’s make it better for those who will follow.  

 


 

 

Ryan Rochon
University of Calgary
December 2015
  

 

It’s your Chief year! Did you ever believe this year would come? How would you reflect on the journey overall thus-far? 

Overall, it has been a great experience.  The time has gone by extremely fast.   There have been a lot of great times and a few tough times.  I think a General Surgery residency is something that will expose who you really are as your true character will show itself when you are pushed to your limit and maybe a little farther…

So what is next?  Where are you off to in July?  Have you already lined up a job or a fellowship or are you still keeping your options open?

I have been accepted to the colorectal fellowship at the University of Calgary.  I would like to stay in an academic center in Canada.

What are you going to miss the most about residency?

The comradery.  A good residency program functions like a sports team.  The close friendships you create during residency are special.  Our annual trips to Banff for Basic Science retreats stand out.  The American College of Surgery meeting in Chicago with all the chief residents was fantastic.

Where did you go to medical school and how did you come about the decision to specialize in General Surgery? Was it something you gradually got into or is there an "aha" moment from your background or training?

I went to medical school at UBC.  I originally considered Orthopedics but it didn’t fit as well as I thought it would.  I was fortunate to have a great experience with the General Surgery group in Prince George, BC.  They were very supportive of my application to General Surgery.  I did an elective in Prince George last year and it really reminded me of what a good thing they have going on there.  An elective with Dr. Morad Hameed at VGH in the beginning of my 4th year of medical school solidified my decision.

Where did you grow up and what did you do in your life before medicine? Not just professionally, but did you have any hobbies or passions that you still pursue?

I grew up in Abbotsford, BC.  I was a chiropractor before I applied to medical school.  Applying to medicine was one of the best decisions I have made.  I have been runner for a long time but quite inconsistent during residency. 

If you had to go back and do something else, anything other than medicine, and more specifically surgery, what would it be?

Unfortunately, I can’t sing or dance so show business is out.  I wouldn’t give up my undergraduate years for anything. 

What was the absolute funniest moment during your residency?

There have been a lot of funny moments over the last four years.  Recently, I was rounding early on the colorectal service and woke up a patient who we were planning to discharge that day.  He woke up a little confused and referred to me as “cougar face.”  The other resident on the service had to leave the room as he started to laugh.  I still have no idea how to take that remark but I am sure it was meant as a compliment...

How about the scariest?

The scariest moment occurred last month on September 10 when my wife gave birth to our twins. It is an exciting time but also terrifying for many reasons.  Needless to say, I started studying early for the Royal College exam.

What is your go to food on call?  

A good night of call includes your favorite staff ordering Vietnamese.

If you could give some words of wisdom to new Residents starting General Surgery in the light of everything we're facing these days across Canada (limited jobs, duty hour restrictions, more and more specialization), what would it be?

The main advice I give to the junior residents is that there is no substitute for hard work.  People form an opinion of you very quickly.  If you are perceived as lazy it is almost impossible to overcome.  I also believe in being kind to everyone.  Sometimes it can be really hard because you are exhausted, irritated and fed up but you will never regret it. 

I also try to impress the fact that we all make mistakes.  It’s how we handle those mistakes that matter.  Do not make excuses…

In regards to jobs, good people are always in demand.  If you work hard and get along with everyone it’s hard for them to say no.

 


 

 

Shiraz Elkheir
McMaster University

August 2015
 

It’s your Chief year! Did you ever believe this year would come? How would you reflect on the journey overall thus-far? 

Oh this question brings lots of memories (good and bad). It has been a long journey for me, especially being an IMG. My journey with surgery actually started in 2001 when I was still in Sudan (my home country), when I sat for the entry General Surgery exam. I did not start the training right away afterwards. I chose to defer it to get a Masters’ degree in Human Anatomy to better enhance my knowledge in the fundamentals of surgery, and I believe this helped me very much.

In our system at that time, a general surgical residency was three years after you have cleared the first part or entry exam, and you only become eligible to take that exam after at least two years of general practice after graduation. Training consisted of one year general surgery, six months orthopedics, six months urology, and three months for each of plastics, pediatric surgery, cardiac surgery, and anesthesia. Then we wrote the final (exit) exam. I did that in June of 2007. Afterwards I practiced as a junior general surgeon for a year.

In late 2008 I decided to leave Sudan and go work in Saudi Arabia to try and save some money to hopefully go to Egypt and start a plastic surgery subspecialization. As I was working in Saudi Arabia as an assistant professor of Anatomy, it became more and more clear to me that my initial plan was not going to work for many reasons, so I aborted it and started pursuing Canada.

The Canadian journey started in 2009 when I was navigating the process of immigrating to Canada as a skilled worker. At the same time I was browsing the relevant websites to get an idea of what I needed to do to be able to practice Medicine in Canada. It was a very tedious and mind boggling task as the process was very complicated and unclear. All the information was very depressing and actually pointing towards having to apply for residency all over again, and the outlook for that was very dark with an estimated 2% chance of landing a residency position (in any specialty). I wrote the MCCEE before coming to Canada and started applying for residencies, and of course was unsuccessful. That was the 2009/10 match cycle. I first set foot in Canada as a landed immigrant in March 2010.

I tried exploring other avenues of making use of my time and applied for Masters and PhD’s but that also didn’t materialize. After three months of trials, I decided to head back to Saudi Arabia to my teaching job. I spent a year there and worked on improving my profile for the match, and as such came to Canada and wrote the MCCQE1 and applied for another round of CARMS. I also applied for an MSc in Anatomical Sciences at Queen's University as a plan B, in case I didn’t match. I didn't match that year as well, but got accepted in the MSc Program at Queen’s.

In July of 2011, I quit my university job, packed and moved to Canada to start the MSc in Anatomical Sciences at Queens’s in September of 2011. Just as I was heading to Canada, the Center for Evaluation of Health Professionals Educated Abroad (CEHPEA), which is the Ontario’s IMG assessment body, announced availability of limited assessment spots for advanced placement in General Surgery among other specialties. I had to write about five different exams to be deemed "Practice ReadY". I was then invited for an interview for a PGY2 position at Mac. I started my PGY2 in July of 2012. Meanwhile, I was done the didactic part of my masters, and out of kindness and compassion from the folks at Queen’s, I was able to complete my remaining requirements as distance learning, and finally defended my thesis and was awarded my degree in February of 2013.

So what is next?  Where are you off to in July?  Have you already lined up a job or a fellowship or are you still keeping your options open? 

I will most likely be going directly into practice, community general surgery and most likely in a small-medium sized community. Residency has been tough on me and my family and I feel guilty about not being able to really devote enough time to my three little kids. As such I wasn’t keen on pursuing a fellowship position.

In terms of jobs, I have done some community electives and currently negotiating a possible opportunity in Northern Ontario that might be available around my completion date in 2016. Hopefully all works out well.

What are you going to miss the most about residency?

I will really miss my colleagues. I have been blessed by having an awesome program with really great fellow residents, each with a unique and admirable personality.  

Where did you go to medical school and how did you come about the decision to specialize in General Surgery? Was it something you gradually got into or is there an "aha" moment from your background or training?

I studied medicine in Sudan in the University of Khartoum (1993-1999). Its one of the oldest medical schools in the Middle East and Africa, established in 1925. Its graduates have, and still are serving in different countries around the globe. Actually the school takes pride in saying that “The sun never sets down on its graduates”! It’s a six year program right after high school. I was very fortunate to have been part of a very special cohort of talented, enthusiastic young men and women of 330, with many of whom I still maintain close ties. We were the last class to graduate in the last century and our graduation coincided with the school celebrating its Diamond Jubilee, and hence we came to be referred to as the “Diamond Class” to this day.

The passion for surgery came slowly but lasted indefinitely. My good base in Anatomy served me well during the study of surgery in med school. I was always answering questions during rounds, understood surgical approaches quite easily and quickly became appreciated by my peers and preceptors.

The history of surgery is filled with marvellous achievements and ideas, two of them which really made me feel that a surgeon can really go a step further were the use of an isolated and opened up piece of small bowel to absorb and control intractable ascites, and the other was the use of a reversed segment of small bowel to slow down intractable functional diarrhea relying on reverse peristalsis. Even in our current DNA age, look at bariatric surgery and how it transforms lives and sends DM and hypertension into remission.

Reflecting and analyzing all those experiences made me choose surgery as a career. 

Where did you grow up and what did you do in your life before medicine? Not just professionally, but did you have any hobbies or passions that you still pursue?

I was born, raised, and lived most of my life in Sudan. I actually lived there continuously until 2008. I was a very active kid and most of my time from grade 4 to 10 was spent with the boy scouts. At one time I belonged to the sea and land scouts groups. It was very fun and we went on all sorts of camping trips, international expeditions, long distance rowing competitions, crafts, exhibitions and much more. During med school, the student’s union regularly organized medical voyages to remote areas of the country. These typically lasted between 7-10 days and were lots of fun and experience. Unfortunately, the pressures of work after graduation prevented me from continuing with those hobbies and activities. However, I love teaching, especially Anatomy, and continue to do so whenever I get a chance. I don’t know if that would qualify as a hobby or not! I also like taking care of my backyard and using power tools to do general simple repairs and small projects around the house. 

If you had to go back and do something else, anything other than medicine, and more specifically surgery, what would it be?

Hmm, that is a tough question, but if I were to change careers within medicine, I think I might probably choose pathology or radiology. If I were to have a different career altogether, it would very likely be in a field such as aviation or automotive engineering. I was and am still fond of engines and mechanics and was an avid enthusiast of cars, though less so now because of time constraints. When I was a medical student, this passion was so intense, to an extent that I knew the number plate, make, model, and year of every luxury/exotic/rare car on the streets of Khartoum!

What was the scariest moment during your residency? 

Hands down, that was the first day of residency. It was July 1st, 2012 and I was put on call. I had not set foot in a Canadian hospital before and had no experience with the system, not even as a visitor before that day. Even worse, I was completely off clinical practice in the four years preceding that day. And to make things worse, it was a very busy day with tons of consults and ward issues. My ID badge wasn’t activated so I couldn’t get scrubs, go into ORs, get a call room, etc. I was carrying my back pack on me all day and night, and actually never got to sleep at all. I am very grateful to the clerk (Salva Sdagi) who was on that day for being my guide and savior. I wish her all the best in her career and life.

What is your favourite “go-to” food on call?

That would be Chewy energy bars from Costco. I keep my backpack well stocked with these!

If you could give some words of wisdom to new Residents starting General Surgery in the light of everything we're facing these days across Canada (limited jobs, duty hour restrictions, more and more specialization), what would it be?

First I would congratulate them on matching to their program (of choice hopefully) and salute them for choosing such a busy career. Residency is very busy and could wear you down easily and quickly, and before you realize you could slip in depression or burnout. What I found useful is investing in getting to know your peers. It makes sense since you will be spending a lot of time with them. Also don’t be shy about venting out your concerns and frustrations. You will be amazed when you learn that almost all of them are feeling the same way, and that in itself can be quite a relief. Try to think ahead of time as much as possible, specifically about practice type and location. Think about choosing your electives to give you an opportunity to sample areas of interest. Consider all options, especially small and rural communities, it is potentially very rewarding both professionally and possibly financially. And last but not least, love what you do! 

 


 

 

Philip Dawe
University of Manitoba

May 2015

It’s your Chief year! Did you ever believe this year would come? How would you reflect on the journey overall thus-far? 

It’s funny how time can be perceived. My first impression is that the residency has gone by in a flash. It seems literally like just yesterday that I came back (for my second residency) and got started. With some reflection however, I recognize that a lot of miles have been traveled during that blink and it represents a much bigger portion of my life than I would first guess. 

So what is next?  Where are you off to in July?  Have you already lined up a job or a fellowship or are you still keeping your options open?

I have mixed emotions about next year; I’m extremely excited about starting a trauma and acute care surgery fellowship at the Vancouver General Hospital, but I’ll be commuting from Winnipeg where my wife (a respirologist) and our three children (Ella 9, Sophie 6 and Philip 1) will stay. Fortunately, they’ll be able to spend the summer in Vancouver, and I’ll do two separate 1-month electives back in Winnipeg to mitigate things. After that, I’m expecting to start work on the trauma service here in Winnipeg.

What are you going to miss the most about residency?

Not much!… Partly kidding. It’s a sheltered environment, and soon enough, I’ll have to put my big-boy pants on and make clinical and operative decisions on my own, so that’s a little daunting. Otherwise, there is of course, an element of camaraderie that I’ll miss to some extent.

Where did you go to medical school and how did you come about the decision to specialize in General Surgery? Was it something you gradually got into or is there an "aha" moment from your background or training?

I took a more scenic route than others. I attended the Royal Military College in the early 90’s, worked as an infantry officer with the PPCLI and deployed overseas three times over an eight year span before doing medical school in Winnipeg. I continued with the army so was obligated to do family medicine initially, then worked as a primary care doc on the military base. I knew very early that as important as family medicine is, it’s not really for me. My general surgery ‘a-ha!’ moment happened twice. First as medical student working with a rural surgeon named Pieter Willemse and then toward the end of my family medicine residency while working with a surgeon whom I still consider a very important mentor to me, Hugh Taylor. I lobbied the army hard to allow me to retrain and after two short years in practice was allowed to return. 

Where did you grow up and what did you do in your life before medicine? Not just professionally, but did you have any hobbies or passions that you still pursue?

My Dad was in the army as well; he served as a combat engineer officer for over 30 years, so we moved around the country a fair bit. My formative years were spent mostly between Kingston, Ottawa and Montreal though, and I would consider Kingston my ‘hometown’. My brothers and I all joined the PPCLI and served (or are still serving) for various lengths of time, so the military has been a pretty big part of my life but I wouldn’t consider it a defining part of me. My family is my greatest priority, and I try to workout whenever I get a chance (usually post-call!). Some day, I’d like to find time to golf and play hockey again, but those things can wait.

If you had to go back and do something else, anything other than medicine, and more specifically surgery, what would it be?

That’s easy. If I could do anything else, I would have not transferred to the medical branch and would have applied and tried out (as many times as necessary) to our special forces.

If you could give some words of wisdom to new Residents starting General Surgery in the light of everything we're facing these days across Canada (limited jobs, duty hour restrictions, more and more specialization), what would it be?

That’s a tough one. Firstly, I think the greatest thing you can do is to continue to live your life during residency. One of my mentors paid me a great compliment when he said that I had done just that: we had our third child, we moved into a new house, I attended as many skating, tennis, swimming and piano lessons as I could. These are big life-changing things and important day-to-day things that we managed to do despite the demands of the residency. I think the point here is that by continuing to live, you maintain a bit of perspective on what’s important. And while you might think that it distracts you from residency, I would argue that that perspective only helps you to be a better doctor. 

Next, as far as service and education go, just do your best and be professional. Don’t be a whiner, but know when to stand up for yourself. Recognize that service has a tremendous amount of education inherent to it, but that teaching (there are many forms of this ranging from reviewing the pre-op imaging and indications for the surgery while the patient is being anaesthetized or discussing the tactical approach to the case at the scrub sink to formal didactic sessions) can be expected in return. Also recognize that you have a duty to your patients and your colleagues to show up. On time and well prepared. (Pretend your mentor - or your mom - is watching you). Stay healthy; if you like to work out, fit it in somehow. You might struggle to train for a marathon, but you can still jog three times a week if running is your thing. 

Lastly, be kind to yourself. I think most people in medicine (maybe not as many in surgery!) tend to be a little hard on themselves. Remember how privileged you are to be practicing surgery; take the responsibility seriously, but give yourself a break if things don’t always work out perfectly. As another excellent mentor once told me after an awful complication: "If you never have any complications, you aren’t operating enough!"

I hope some of these very simple mind sets can really help you through your program… they seemed to work for me.

 


 

 

Lauren O’Malley
Queen’s University

April 2015

Q1) It's finally your Chief year. Did you ever believe this year would come? How would you reflect on the journey overall thus far?

I can't believe I'm in my chief year. Four years has flown by very fast. Of course I still remember key points in the journey: first night on call trying to manage someone in rapid a. fib, first time doing an operation from beginning to end (appy!), being able to institute some simple changes to how the service runs day to day now that I'm the chief. Looking back there have been lots of ups and downs but I'll say this to the juniors, day to day work gets easier and it's more fun when you're the one operating on the big cases. You'll get your turn and it's worth the hard work to get there.


Q2) Where did you go to medical school and how did you come about the decision to specialize in General Surgery? Was it something you gradually got into or is there an "aha" moment from your background or training?

I went to medical school at Dalhousie University and loved it! I'm not from the East coast and haven't been back since. I miss it terribly. I'm hoping for a class of 2010 reunion when we all pass the royal college exam!

I was interested in surgery right away and was further intrigued during my first year observership. I decided to specialize in General Surgery (despite the warnings of almost everyone I told about my interest) when I finally realized that I couldn't give up on the idea of spending my life in medicine in the operating room. I didn't pursue another surgical specialty because the pathology simply did not interest me as much as the variety and scope of General Surgery.


Q3) Where did you grow up and what did you do in your life before medicine? Not just professionally, but did you have any hobbies or passions that you still pursue?

I grew up in Mississauga. I went to Queen's for undergrad (physics) and that's why I'm so comfortable back here as a resident. Kingston seems to suck people back in. Before medicine I was a graduate student in Toronto (medical biophysics). I was a passionate ski racer as a teenager but Kingston and Halifax don't have great hills nearby. I've had to take up x-country skiing and snowshoeing and luckily there's a great conservation area 10 minutes from downtown Kingston where I can go.

Q4) What was the absolute funniest moment during your residency?

I think one of the more memorable moments and one which is funny in retrospect happened when I was about 8 weeks pregnant. I hadn't told anyone at work and was having terrible "morning sickness" at midnight when I was the senior resident about to start an appendectomy. I knew it wasn't in the best interest of the patient to have me operating so I decided to be honest with my staff. When he saw that I was visibly ill and asked what's wrong I blurted out "I'm pregnant!" and was so embarassed I started to well up with tears. The part I remember was the junior residents face in absolute mouth-open shock in the background. The staff exclaimed "That's wonderful! Go home". He likes telling the story now and even though his reaction didn't show it I think he was shocked too. He reminds me of that night regularly.

Q5) If you could give some words of wisdom to new Residents starting General Surgery in light of everything we're facing these days across Canada (limited jobs, duty hour restrictions, more and more specialization), what would it be?

The worries that some of the new residents might have are very much on my mind as I am halfway through my chief year. I hope be hired at a community hospital and am in the thick of sending out emails inquiring about jobs, contemplating some extra training I might need and feeling sometimes overwhelmed that after all this hard work I am unsure of what my practice will look like or where my family will end up. I was encouraged listening to speakers at the Canadian Surgery Forum in Vancouver who seemed to understand the challenges we are facing and proposed interesting solutions (job sharing, mentoring new grads). My advice would be to pursue research, electives and fellowships that interest you and fit with you and your family's goals rather than try to position yourself for a job in a certain city or institution. I think that there is room for those with very subspecialized training and cutting edge research interests to push the field forward and for those who hope to provide excellent surgical care to patients in the community setting.



 

Riley Stewart

University of Dalhousie

January 2017

   
   
   
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