Adam Fontebasso

April 2022

University of Ottawa

Tell us about yourself
I was born and raised on the West Island of Montreal and attended McGill University for 11 years straight! I did a Bachelor’s degree followed by an MD-PhD. I met my wife Caitlin in the first year of medical school and eventually matched to the University of Ottawa General Surgery program. We have one daughter, born near the beginning of the pandemic. Her name is Naomi and she is hilarious.

Why did you choose a career in general surgery?
It was a difficult choice and honestly it took me while to get there. I had quite a few interests. Through the process of multiple short electives and exploring the different fields of interest, I was ultimately convinced after stints in pediatric surgery and thoracic surgery. I found the breadth of the specialty incredible; the knowledge and skills are so versatile, and the acuity and impact of your care are so tangible.

What are your research or academic interests?
I still maintain my interest in cancer research, notably in young patients and cancer development and predisposition, which is related to the PhD that I completed. This is in fact what drew me to my fellowship, Surgical Oncology. I am really interested by cancer genomics, and figuring out what drives cancer development and metastases in young individuals.

What has been the biggest lesson you’ve learned throughout your training?
Maintaining a good balance in personal and professional life is extremely important and extremely difficult to do. I have struggled with it. It is rare that I can be a great husband, a great Dad and a great resident all on the same day- let alone friend, son, brother, cousin, neighbour etc… But I try really hard to do it. You shouldn’t lose yourself in this process, and it can be easy to. Residency has taught me that taking ownership and being accountable is the best way to try to maintain a balance because it keeps you honest and humble.

Do you have any call rituals?
Post-call breakfast sandwich is sacred! Bacon or sausage, maybe one of each.

What do you do for fun?
I love hanging out with my wife and my daughter, we love going for walks and to parks. My wife and I adore traveling and we miss it dearly, it has been hard not to travel as much as we used to in the past 2 years. I love movies and TV and always try to have a book on the go. David Sedaris’ books make me laugh out loud, it’s the best antidote to studying this year.

What are your career goals?
I am thrilled to be accepted to the University of Toronto Surgical Oncology Fellowship and will be starting that this July. I am aiming to become an academic surgical oncologist with a robust research program focused on cancer genomics, cancer development and predisposition.

If you could go back and give advice to yourself in medical school what would it be?
I would give myself a high-five and say good job talking to Caitlin.

If you could go back and give advice to yourself as a junior resident what would it be?
Junior residency was very challenging and I struggled with balance and compartmentalization. I carried around the feeling of inadequacy. I would say to myself to not forget to take care of my own wellness and remember that sometimes what I needed after a rough day/call shift was not to indulge, but rather a good workout.