Lauren O’Malley

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

Lauren O’Malley surgeonI 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.

2) 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.

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 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.

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

Lauren O’Malley surgeonI 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.

5) 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.