Elaine Tang

October 2019


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

Chief year has come on too quickly, it all feels like one big blur. Residency has been life-changing in many ways and medicine has permeated and become a way of life. I have made many friends going through this journey together, and found so many mentors in my staff whom I look up to for advice in medicine and in life. Being at Western for General Surgery was my first choice from the beginning, and I would do it all over again.

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

I’m in the midst of a combined General Surgery/Critical Care fellowship. Plan will be to go back to ICU and complete my ICU fellowship in July 2020 after I finish my General Surgery training.


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

My co-residents, without a doubt. We’ve been together since July 2015, and we’re going to be first all-female graduating year from Western! (#metoo #ilooklikeasurgeon) I am going to miss them so much when we all go our separate ways – to Johns Hopkins for Surgical Oncology, UBC for Peds Gen Surgery, and one is currently applying for Colorectal. On a whim one December, we even got matching tattoos! It’s a colon 😀

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?

Western through and through. I decided on surgery after feeling a heart beat under my hand for the first time. That was such a high. But, I didn’t want to be so subspecialized, so General Surgery was the natural path for me.


Q5) What is the most memorable thing that you have done outside of surgery in the last five years?

I had a daughter in my second year of residency. I thought I knew about sleep deprivation before – wrong. Motherhood has been challenging but so rewarding. She puts into perspective for me what’s truly important in life and gives me a reason to smile and laugh no matter what else is happening. She’s starting to talk now and her Chin-glish is spot on.

Q6) What was your most memorable night on call?

A Sunday weekend call with nothing for 24 hours was an alarming experience. That, or my first ED thoracotomy. Both were pretty memorable.


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

Still when Jimmy was found under the bridge.


Q8) How about the scariest moment during your residency?

A pericardial window turned into a sternotomy, cardiac bypass and open-heart repair due a fused pericardium to myocardium. We got into the LV with very friable tissue and sutures that just kept tearing. I was in charge of tamponading the LV defect with packed sponges while we converted. Patient had a good outcome in the end, but that was a pretty harrowing experience.


Q9) Do you have any call superstitions or routines?

Never mention the Q-word, never say “this seems easy” at the beginning of a case, never put in discharge orders for hot gallbladders pre-operatively, and never go and “just see what’s going on” in the ER.


Q10) 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?

Trust that if you’re good at what you do, it will all work out in the end. Focus on the present and work hard. Take every opportunity to learn from everyone around you and do things yourself to get the experience. Be kind to others and be kind to yourself. Most importantly, remember why you’re in medicine – these are people you’re looking after; this is someone’s parent, child, or partner. Don’t ever forget about the humanity of medicine.


Q11) What would your juniors say is the best thing about you?

I’ve been told, “You’re so nice, and you’re a surgery resident!” I found that comment amusing. Surgery residents aren’t all mean!


Q12) Rapid fire:

  1. What do you listen to in the OR?  Whatever the staff plays but no rap.
  2. What is the operation you dislike the most?  Redo redo inguinal hernias
  3. What is the operation you like the most?  Lap adrenalectomy and lap splenectomies
  4. What is your favourite medical TV show?  Scrubs, hands down.
  5. What is your go-to surgery textbook?  Can I say UpToDate?
  6. What is your post-call ritual?  Shower, drink water, eat food, build Lego with my daughter.
  7. What is your favourite “go-to” food on call?  ½ ginger ale, ½ water, 1 can of OJ mixed together with ER crackers.
  8. White coat or hoodie?  White coat. Pockets are so key.
  9. Single or double glove?  Single, better tactile feedback.
  10. Dry scrub or wet scrub?  Wet. Got allergic to dry scrub =(
  11. Trauma laparotomy or elective Whipple?  Trauma laparotomy
  12. Open inguinal hernia repair or laparoscopic?  Open
  13. Monocryl or skin staples?  Monocryl, always.
  14. Perianal abscess I+D or ingrown toenail?????  Toenail, always.