Q1) It is your Chief year! Did you ever believe this year would come? How would you reflect on the journey overall thus far?
What a journey, with every year being even better than the last (though I guess you should talk to me again when that final quiz of ours is looming a bit closer). We’re all extremely fortunate to get to be doing what we are doing.
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 lucky enough to be sticking around Vancouver for another year to do an MIS fellowship.
Q3) What are you going to miss the most about residency?
As with most people’s responses to this question, it’ll be the amazing residents and friends that I went through this adventure alongside. I’ll also miss those surgeons whose coaching and mentorship allowed me to really grow.
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 UBC for medical school, and in fact originally thought that I was interested in pediatrics. General Surgery happened to be my second-to-last rotation as a third year clerk and I loved it. Pediatrics came after, so I gave myself a couple weeks of it to be sure of jumping ship, and then cancelled all my fourth year pediatric electives, and grabbed whatever general surgery electives I could get throughout the country. It couldn’t have worked out better in the end!
Q5) What is the most memorable thing that you have done outside of surgery in the last five years?
This one is easy! Raising my super cute daughter alongside my awesome wife!
Q6) What was your most memorable night on call?
Hmm… only because everyone typically recounts epic surgical stories, maybe I’ll say it was during a 24 hours New Years shift with my co-chief where we had zero consults and zero ORs (only time ever) and instead caught up with one another during day time hours and got a full night’s rest!
Q7) What was the absolute funniest moment during your residency?
A good friend of mine wrote about one of the funniest shared moments in his own submission to “Scrub Caps Off” last year (for you super sleuths/procrastinators).
Now that you have me reminiscing with these questions though, one memory for the books takes place when as a first year resident I was operating with my staff on Christmas evening. My pager goes off and the circulating nurse kindly returns the call on my behalf. After a moment she takes the phone from her ear and announces to the room, “Graeme, your parents are in the lobby with Christmas dinner and a gift for you!”. Turns out my parents had driven to the hospital hoping to simply leave me Christmas leftovers somewhere, but the operator they spoke to about where they might do this enthusiastically connected them with my pager before they could protest. I recall the staff-man not seeming too impressed, but when the whole room erupted with “awww” and demands for me to scrub out and go see them, the surgeon caved and urged me out of the room. Funny and embarrassing (for both my parents and I) at the time, but ultimately pretty special.=
Q8) How about the scariest moment during your residency?
Possibly when, during a laparoscopic right adrenalectomy for some pretty sticky metastatic disease, the adrenal vein tore off the IVC. An hour, some awesome teamwork, a couple of additional ports (but no big cut!), and a few grey hairs later, we had thankfully salvaged the situation.
Q9) Do you have any call superstitions or routines?
Though there’s not always much sleep while on call, I always plan for it. Our call beds, like most I presume, aren’t the best: a scratchy fitted sheet and blanket on a spring mattress that’s more spring than mattress. I put down a blanket on the fitted sheet to protect myself from spring imprints, line that with a proper flat sheet from the linen cart, and then finally have another flat sheet between me and the blanket. Glorious!
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?
Work hard, and be nice (to everyone!). A lot of our future isn’t in our control, whereas those two things we can somewhat influence. Things will work out just fine. At least I tell myself that J
Q11) What would your juniors say is the best thing about you?
Hopefully it would involve my effort to get them involved in the OR as much as possible, or how kind and easy-going I am, or my jaw-line, my generosity to strangers, I’m sure they would just go on and on… 😉
Q12) Rapid fire:
- What do you listen to in the OR? At this stage, it’s still whatever the staff-person chooses. That said, whatever will put the whole room in a good mood is best!
- What is the operation you dislike the most? EUA and I+D, especially if it’s in the middle of the night.
- What is the operation you like the most? Hmm… maybe a laparoscopic right hemicolectomy or an easy gallbladder (so satisfying!).
- What is your favourite medical TV show? I liked Scrubs, though I will admit I did watch a few seas…episodes of Grey’s Anatomy while dating my now wife. I recall liking the one where one of the characters has to keep their hand on a bomb in someone’s chest??
- What is your go-to surgery textbook? For exam-prep purposes, I may be slowly abandoning the Sabiston bandwagon in preference of Cameron’s… but otherwise Google is my friend. Laparoscopic videos from SAGES or on the various Facebook surgical hubs can be absolute gold.
- What is your post-call ritual? Eat whatever I can get my hands on. Nap for a few hours. Do the “easy” stuff (emails, housework, etc) so that I can pretend to be productive. Sleep early. That said, if there are juicy cases happening “post-call”, then my ritual is to ensure I have lots of snacks and coffee on hand and simply power through.
- What is your favourite “go-to” food on call? My favourite “go-to” meal would be the nutritious and delicious meals that my wife frequently packs for me! I know, I know, I owe her a lot. That said, I do also love a free meal, and so another of my favourites is in fact the occasional untouched patient tray (thank you to the nurses who have not only saved these for me, but paged me when they arrived so that I could eat them “fresh”). I don’t quite understand why so many patients seem to detest hospital food… like many of my colleagues, I take their complaints as a good sign that they are ready for discharge home.
- White coat or hoodie? I’m usually AOK without either until about 3AM, when my body’s homeostasis shuts down. Then I like to don one of those green long-sleeve nursing jackets that you can typically find in the OR.
- Single or double glove? Double.
- Dry scrub or wet scrub? Wet, but only if I get to use a nice sterile fabric cloth to dry, and not one of those flimsy paper cloths.
- Trauma laparotomy or elective Whipple? Trauma lap.
- Open inguinal hernia repair or laparoscopic? I love both!
- Monocryl or skin staples? Monocryl
- Perianal abscess I+D or ingrown toenail????? Perianal abscess, especially if it can be done quickly, during daytime hours, in the ED, and with the patient discharged home straightaway!
Insider funny stories about Katie Duncan:
First off, Katie is one of the most intelligent and quick-witted people I know. She’s going to move mountains in her career and I’m excited to see her do it! She also craves efficiency on morning rounds- check out the attached picture of her with patient labels ready to go for staff on weekend rounds. Another interesting factoid is that Katie semi-seriously considered a career as the world’s first “hernia cruise” surgeon. Senior citizens worldwide would book a cruise, and have their hernia(s) fixed at the same time! Too bad successfully matching to a competitive surgical oncology fellowship, as well as a worldwide pandemic that put the kibosh on cruises, got in your way! Thanks for an awesome six years Katie!