Juan Mata

June 2020

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 has been simply an incredibly fulfilling journey! You go through every emotion you can imagine and face such an array of unfathomable situations. Precisely today, on call on a Saturday, I was having breakfast with an R1, and told her how R1 and R2 are challenging, R3 is confusing, but once you have done your part, R4 and 5 are just SO MUCH FUN. The road to gain independence, to become a senior, to mentor junior residents, to start to be treated as a colleague by staff, and to feel that you know how to operate is the unique natural evolution of surgical residency and has been an incredible ride. I won’t go as far as to say the often heard – “it has gone by sooo fast” – some parts did NOT.

Q2) So what is next?  Where are you off to in July? 
MIS Bariatrics in Vancouver! Going back to the west coast and INCREDIBLY excited about it!

Q3) What are you going to miss the most about residency?
Most of all, to work with your friends in such an intricate, challenging, and selective activity as General Surgery Residency, often for very long hours, and most of the time fueled on coffee and hard boiled eggs. Definitely the privilege of leading a team of residents. Also, very soon, I will strongly miss the safety net we have as trainees.

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 med school in Mexico! I’m a graduate from Universidad Autonoma del Estado De Morelos. The actual inception: my sister had a kidney transplant when I was 8, and my interest was born then.

Q5) What is the most memorable thing that you have done outside of surgery in the last five years?
I helped over 100 IMGs with their applications to residency from all around the world. I learned to play the ukulele during post-call, and met an amazing woman whom I will be marrying next winter. Kept my beloved dog Tinga alive! Oh, and reached 2 finals with our (very out-of-shape) resident soccer team!!


Q6) What was your most memorable night on call?
Very tough to choose one! Up there in the top 5: Moving the HPB service to a new hospital, riding ambulances back and forth with super sick patients.
Also, a night of: appy, appy, chole, chole interrupted by a ruptured giant spleen in ER ergo ex lap splenectomy, then plane, retrieval, liver transplant. The feeling of accomplishment that you experience on the moment when you put on your coat and finally leave the hospital is incomparable.

Q7) What was the absolute funniest moment during your residency?
Oh man! There’s a very memorable one, but it is funny because it’s SO wrong. We had a POD 2 graham patch for perfd’ DU with unstable peritonitis who was doing very well on morning rounds. As I discussed his discharge with him and my staff, I told him not to lift heavy weights for a while, knowing that he worked in a restaurant, to which he answered: ”Don’t worry, I have a bunch of Mexicans just to do the heavy lifting”. I stood in silence, my staff revealed my nationality to him. I then left the room. The patient’s face was priceless. We laughed so much afterwards. (Cheers if you’re reading this DD).

Q8) How about the scariest moment during your residency?
Early R2. The whole trauma team was in the OR for an unstable neck stab when we got activated for a second patient. I went down to the bay with an R1 to find a stab wound to the chest. Luckily there was an emerg TTL very comfortable with trauma, who saw me and told me: “Can you handle the stab? I have an unstable MI to deal with”…I (rookie mistake) said yes. After bouts of instability, tears, doubt, equivocal FASTS, and hesitation, we ended up in the OR for a sternotomy (now with the staff obviously). At the end of the night, I went down to the bay, and the TTL asked me: So how’s your fellowship going? (Yeah, he thought I was our trauma fellow. We kinda look alike). I aged 4 years in that hour. Lesson: DO NOT BE A COWBOY.

Q9) Do you have any call superstitions or routines?
Print the list in only, and only one page. If it is too long, use your imagination.
Be a surgeon and crack the hard-boiled eggs in only 2 large pieces.

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?
Find mentorship early on in your residency. There is not always a structure for that to happen automatically, but it is a priceless thing. It will significantly improve all the issues in the question. It is never too late to reposition your aims, and your mentors.

Q11) What would your juniors say is the best thing about you?
I don’t think I ever got angry during residency, and I’m pretty good controlling my stress. Also, I’m able to build a good rapport with difficult patients, which is always helpful.

Q12) Rapid fire:

  • What do you listen to in the OR? Latin music ABSOLUTELY. Salsa, bachata, reggaeton. Played callaita by bad bunny in my last OR, and taught the lyrics to the nursing staff.
  • What is the operation you dislike the most? Anorectal stuff. No thanks.
  • What is the operation you like the most? Lap whipples. And I think I will love donor nephrectomies. We’ll see that soon.
  • What is your favourite medical TV show? Obvious obvious question. The office. No more. I know it’s not medical but I cannot answer anything else
  • What is your go-to surgery textbook? Cameron, and Yaseen’s notes haha.
  • What is your post-call ritual? Go home, take Tinga (my famous dog) for a run, make breakfast and eat it while watching the office. Then pass out.
  • What is your favourite “go-to” food on call? Boustan mixed  giro platter. I wish I would have kept it as an “on call” habit.
  • White coat or hoodie? “White” coat haha.
  • Single or double glove? Single during my junior years. Double after a healthy burn.
  • Dry scrub or wet scrub?
  • Trauma laparotomy or elective Whipple? Trauma lap!!!!! Unless the whipple is laparoscopic/robotic.
  • Open inguinal hernia repair or laparoscopic? Well, you guess.
  • Monocryl or skin staples? Staples if I’m holding the stapler. Haha. No, here I’m gonna have to go with the boring answer that it really depends.
  • Perianal abscess I+D or ingrown toenail????? The perianal abscess when the junior texts you: “There was a perianal abscess, I drained it and DC-ed the patient”.