University of McGill
University of McGill
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 is a very exciting time and the culmination of over a decade of medical education. Surgical training has been one of the toughest, yet fulfilling periods of my life. Along the way, there were as many setbacks as there were victories. I was very fortunate to have developed strong relationships with my mentors who have invested much of their time and energy into training me to become the individual that I am today. Reflecting on this journey makes me scrutinize all my decisions (i.e. choice of subspecialty, taking time off to do a PhD), but ultimately leaves me a very strong sense of pride and accomplishment. I will look back at my time at McGill with fondness and I look forward to the next chapter.
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 will be moving to New York City in July to start my fellowship in Endocrine Surgery at Columbia University. Subsequently, I plan to work at an academic institution as a surgeon-scientist, with a research focus in surgical education, technology-enhanced learning environments, and the optimization of performance and patient safety in the operating room.
Q3) What are you going to miss the most about residency?
I will greatly miss the support of my mentors and role-models – whether it is discussing a case (or what they would do in a hypothetical situation) while having coffee together, debriefing on the management of a patient and how we can improve for next time, or simply getting life advice from them. These experiences and relationships are priceless, and I hope I can provide the same to the future generation when I start as an attending.
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 attended Western (aka University of Western Ontario) where surgical rotations are strongly embedded into the undergraduate medical education. I had no intention of becoming a surgeon until I observed my Chief resident and attendings taking care of patients. For me, it was mostly the interesting pathologies and the immediate gratification from one’s work, combined with an unparalleled level of patient ownership that inspired me to become like them.
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 lived in Toronto most of my life after immigrating from Paris, so I guess I consider myself a Torontonian at heart. One of my childhood obsessions was learning about ancient civilizations and medieval history, with a focus on military tactics. (Nerd Alert: I competed in the Ontario Classics Conference back in high school and won several awards). I was heavily involved in sports throughout my adolescence. My first plan was to become a professional tennis player and participated in many national competitions and tournaments. Nevertheless, I developed an early passion in human physiology during my undergraduate studies at the University of Toronto and eventually decided to change career paths. I also competed in swimming (butterfly) and boxing.
Q6) What is the most memorable thing that you have done outside of surgery in the last five years?
I proposed to my amazing fiancee, Golnaz, in Lisbon, Portugal last spring. We are getting married this summer after the Royal College exam. This journey would not be possible without her ongoing support.
Q7) What was your most memorable night on call?
As a first-year resident, I once had 21 consults in a single night. I remember I could not fit any more consult sheets in my pockets. The elevators of the hospital were also non-functional most of that night. I ran so many times between the 1st floor (ER), 8th floor (OR), 9th floor (ICU) and 18th floor (ward) that I became very dehydrated. My diet consisted of me chugging many bottles of orange juice and devouring crackers with peanut butter from the nursing station. Then we finished the morning with a resuscitative thoracotomy in the ER.
Q8) What was the absolute funniest moment during your residency?
Once I was looking after a very prominent patient who had a mistress, who happened to come visit him while his wife was in the room with him. Things got a bit out of hand and uncomfortable. I thought these things only happen in Grey’s Anatomy!
Q9) How about the scariest moment during your residency?
The first time I had to operate independently without an attending in the room. Bearing all the responsibility was very frightening and you begin to question every little detail, but in the end I trusted my training and the experience was very rewarding as I was able to develop a sense of autonomy. I should note that the scrub nurse who assisted me was extremely good.
Q10) Do you have any call superstitions or routines?
I always carry a 3-0 prolene and scalpel in my pocket (just in case). Before I start my call, I also do a full play-by-play in my head of me running the trauma bay with an unstable trauma patient who loses his/her vitals. When I find myself in that actual situation (or anything similar), it feels as if I am just re-creating what I have already seen and done before, and things go smoothly
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?
Pace yourself and be resilient – opportunities will present themselves and the onus is on you to be proactive, seize those opportunities and make the best of them. Read around cases, attend the OR as much as possible (even if it means watching a case) and pay close attention to every move, and ask questions when appropriate. Maintain a very strong work ethic, be interested, and come to work every morning with the mentality that you are making a difference in the lives of your patients (you are not just a resident covering a service). Come prepared for ORs – read about the procedure, watch as many online videos as possible, and most importantly do a play-by-play of the entire operation in your mind beforehand (just like professional athletes).
Mistakes are normal and inevitable. While it is important to maintain conscious awareness of various pitfalls and potential errors, it is just as important to maintain your confidence and trust yourself and your training. Always learn from your past mistakes (and those of others!) and avoid them in the future.
It goes without saying, seek out mentors sometime during your first year of residency. Find a few attendings that share similar interests in terms of subspecialty and academics/research, and express your interest. If you plan to do research, make sure you find a project that truly inspires you to be productive during this limited time period (not just the subspecialty you think you want to do), and try to pick a gap in the literature to investigate that is very relevant and pertinent so that your work can have the maximum impact and recognition.
Q12) Rapid fire:
What do you listen to in the OR? Mostly Selena Gomez. I recently started requesting “I Need a Hero” and “Total Eclipse of the Heart” by Bonnie Tyler as closing music.
What is the operation you dislike the most?Sentinel lymph node biopsy. There is something about the noise from the gamma probe.
What is the operation you like the most? It’s a tie between open adrenalectomy, lateral neck dissection and thoracoabdominal esophagectomy
What is your favourite medical TV show?Scrubs
What is your go-to surgery textbook? Cameron’s for most topics. Chassin’s for surgical techniques. WebSurg for laparoscopic videos. Top-Knife for trauma and life advice in general.
Favourite post-call activity? Breakfast in the cafeteria
What is your favourite “go-to” food on call? Chateau Kebab
White coat or hoodie? Black hoodie. Always. It makes me feel like the hospital ninja.
Single glove or double glove? Double glove
Dry scrub or wet scrub? Dry scrub
Trauma laparotomy or elective Whipple? Whipple
Inexperienced junior resident or inexperienced ER staff? Inexperienced junior resident. More opportunities for teaching and mentorship.
Open inguinal hernia repair or laparoscopic? Laparoscopic
Monocryl or skin staples? Monocryl. Gives a chance for juniors and medical students to practice.
Perianal abscess I+D or ingrown toenail?? Perianal abscess. As one mentor said “It’s like popping a giant zit”