University of Manitoba
1) It’s your Chief year! Did you ever believe this year would come? How would you reflect on the journey overall thus-far?
It’s getting fairly late in the year now, so I’m certainly facing the reality that the end of residency is near and the exam is right around the corner. The journey has had its up and downs, but at the end of the day there have definitely been more positives.
2) 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 am extremely excited to be heading to Vancouver to do a Colorectal Fellowship at UBC. I’m really looking forward to starting with the group there and having the experience of moving to a new city for a couple years.
3) What are you going to miss the most about residency?
The main thing I’ll miss is the people in the program, from our support staff and nurses to the other residents and attendings. U of M has a relatively small program so everyone knows each other well and tries to help each other out. I’ll also miss my co-chiefs. We’ve been training together for a long time now, and even though at times you drive each other a little nuts when you’re studying, we’ve all really supported each other at times through the last year. It’s nice to have a group of people around who you can talk to, joke with or vent to when needed. Despite all the stress there tends to be a lot of laughter at our study sessions. It will be weird not to see everyone on a weekly basis anymore!
4) 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 medical school in Winnipeg at the U of M and was potentially interested in surgery from the start. However, I didn’t know for sure that I wanted to do General Surgery until my surgery block in clerkship. I had enjoyed ICU and some of my other rotations, but as soon as I rotated through our Acute Care Surgery service I was totally sold. I loved close to everything about it; being in the OR, the busy call, the wide range of pathology and patients.
I distinctly remember one night we took a patient to the OR for a bowel obstruction in a virgin abdomen. We found an intra-luminal mass at the transition point, so the attending performed an enterotomy to figure out what was causing the obstruction. He proceeded to pull out a full floret of undigested broccoli that was causing the blockage. It was simultaneously disgusting, hilarious and rather impressive. Moral of the story is not to gum Chinese food if you lose your dentures! I think finding that case more amusing than repulsive kind of solidified that I would do fine in General Surgery though.
5) 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?
As a fairly typical Winnipeger I grew up in the city and have done all my training here. I have a really close group of friends and family here, who have been a great support while going through residency. When I first started university I was interested in pursuing either medicine or fine arts. I had hoped to keep painting throughout med school and residency, but that’s been challenging during surgical residency. Hopefully once I’m finished training I’ll be able to pick up painting again.
My husband and I also both love to travel and explore new countries. We’ve managed to visit some pretty amazing places during my training including Kenya, Greece, Vietnam, Hong Kong, and just recently Nicaragua. We also like to travel for music festivals and have been to several big festivals around the US, UK and Canada. Plus we go to the Winnipeg Folk Festival religiously every year with friends. I’m looking forward to hopefully getting to some festivals out West over the next couple years with the move to Vancouver.
6) If you had to go back and do something else, anything other than medicine, and more specifically surgery, what would it be?
That’s a tough one for me. There really isn’t much else I’d rather be doing to be honest. Having just come back from a trip, I’ve always thought being able to make a career out of travel would be amazing. That being said, I think even now the job security is still probably better in surgery!
7) What was the absolute funniest moment during your residency?
There have been many funny moments over the years. It would be hard to pick just one. Plus the very best of them are probably best not shared here!
8) How about the scariest?
I think my first ED thoracotomy still stands out in my mind. It happened on either my first or second senior call shift in 3rd year. I’d literally looked it up earlier that night. It felt very surreal when it was happening. But it’s one of those things that once you’ve actually done it, you feel a little bit more confident that you’ll be able to handle the crazy stuff that gen surg residency sometimes throws your way.
9) What is your favourite “go-to” food on call?
Black coffee is my only must. Other than that whatever is available whenever there is time to grab something! However, nights where we are able to order in dinner with the team and actually sit down and enjoy it will be some of my favorite memories. Thai, Indian, Vietnamese and sushi tend to be the go to’s on those nights.
10) If you could give some words of wisdom to new Residents starting General Surgery 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?
I’d say just keep your head down and work hard, enjoy and immerse yourself in the job and try not get caught up in those outside things. Trying to remain positive and pleasant to work with even when you’re tired and stressed goes a long way at the end of the day. I certainly keep trying to remind myself that as chief year is coming to a close! There will be tough times in residency and you will be busy and work hard in General Surgery, but it is also fun, exciting and every day is different. If you are passionate about it and enjoy the work, it’s an extremely rewarding career. Ultimately, I am really happy this is the path I chose. I can’t imagine doing anything else, nor would I want to.