Mark Dykstra, University of Alberta

August 2018

Mark recently finished his General Surgery Residency in June 2018 at the University of Alberta and is now completing a fellowship in Colorectal Surgery in Calgary, Alberta. Before he completed R5 we asked him the following questions and here are his responses.

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 went by so fast and so slow at the same time.  I’ve been very blessed to do some pretty amazing/crazy/fun/difficult things with some amazing/funny/inspiring people.

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 headed to Calgary for a fellowship in Colorectal Surgery

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

The guys in my study group.  We’ve been through a lot together, and we know what to say to make each other feel better when we’re down, and we know what to say to knock each other down a few notches when we’re getting too cocky.  I’m also going to miss the team atmosphere and the constant banter/trash-talk of being on the gen surg service.

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 Dordt College in Iowa for my undergrad, and was thinking medicine throughout my time there.   I was accepted at the University of Alberta, and during my pre-clerkship years was most interested in the surgical specialties.  I realized that I enjoyed general surgery the most: the clinics, endoscopy, and types of procedures were things I looked forward to doing, which I took as a good sign that gen surg was for me.

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 grew up in Edmonton, played a ton of sports, and worked as a framer for 10 summers.  I still like to ski, hike, play basketball, and play flag football.

Q6) What is the most memorable thing that you have done outside of surgery in the last five years?

My wife and I have a 4 year old daughter and an almost 2 year old son.

Q7) What was your most memorable night on call

The most memorable nights (not always the most fun) were the ones with big traumas: head and neck GSWs, chest stabs, train vs pedestrian.

There was also a night I got 0 consults, 0 calls, and 8 hours of sleep.  That was pretty memorable.

Q8) What was the absolute funniest moment during your residency?

We made some pretty good Christmas party videos.

Q9) How about the scariest moment during your residency?

The first time my pager went off for a Tylenol order.  I went and did a history and physical to make sure there were no allergies or signs of liver failure.

Q10) Do you have any call superstitions or routines?


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?

It’s a long, hard road, and there will be times that you want to quit, but I think that it is incredibly rewarding, and a ton of fun.  No amount of reading can replace seeing and doing things in person.  Don’t compare your life to residents in other specialties, you’ll wind up bitter.

Q12) Rapid fire:

What do you listen to in the OR? ’90-’00s singalong

What is the operation you dislike the most? Sewing closed a SLNB incision

What is the operation you like the most? Closed loop bowel obstruction

What is your favourite medical TV show?Scrubs

What is your go-to surgery textbook?Top Knife

Favourite post-call activity? McDonald’s sausage McGriddle

What is your favourite “go-to” food on call? 4-color vermicelli from Nah Trang

White coat or hoodie? Neither

Single glove or double glove?Double

Dry scrub or wet scrub?Dry

Trauma laparotomy or elective Whipple? Trauma lap

Inexperienced junior resident or inexperienced ER staff?Junior

Open inguinal hernia repair or laparoscopic?Open

Monocryl or skin staples?Monocryl

Perianal abscess I+D or ingrown toenail?? I+D