Samuel Chen

April 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?
It certainly has been a long journey to my chief year! I’ve seen and learned more than I could have imagined over the past years.

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

Next up a fellowship in Global Surgery at the University of Alberta. It’s an initiative to start a formal training program for surgeons who wish to contribute their skills in low and middle income countries. Thanks to Dr. Saleh, Dr. Widder, Dr. Williams, and every surgeon at U of A who’s supported this crazy bold endeavour.

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

Definitely the unique comradery amongst the residents in my year. We have all looked out for each other from Day 1, and we can proudly say that every one of us who started out as R1s remains in the program.

Q4) Where did you go to medical school and how did you come about the decision to specialize in General Surgery?
I went to medical school at Western. They are known for having a demanding surgery program. I thought of General Surgery not as a specialization, but as a way to keep my options open. You can be a good physician and be able to cut as well.

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 between China, Australia, New Zealand, before my family settled down in Toronto. Before medicine, I was in engineering. Still have some side projects going on from those days. I still like to travel, hike, take photos.

Q6) What is the most memorable thing that you have done outside of surgery in the last five years?
One of my side projects was some computer code that contributed to the gravitational wave observatory project (LIGO). Its first observations published in 2016 proved one of Einstein’s predictions in his 1916 General Theory of Relativity.

Q7) What was your most memorable night on call?
While I was on an elective rotation in Angola, polling my old ICU crew about appropriate antibiotic coverage for crocodile bites.

Q8) What was the absolute funniest moment during your residency?
I don’t have much sense of humor but I’m sure others can tell stories. Maybe the one time I glued myself to a patient?

Q9) How about the scariest moment during your residency?
I try to avoid doing anything crazy. Arriving in Angola for the first time, not knowing much of the language and with hard-to-explain medical supplies tucked away in my suitcase was interesting. Thanks to Andrew Giles (one of your previous interviewees) for contributing advice and many reciprocating saw blades for that trip!

Q10) Do you have any call superstitions or routines?
I order food for my team if time allows.

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?
Look overseas, even if only part-time. There are 5 billion people on this earth who don’t have access to a surgeon. There’s a lot of good in humanitarian work that a Canadian-trained surgeon can do. What it lacks in pay you’ll make up for in experience.

Q12) Rapid fire

  1. What do you listen to in the OR? Whatever
  2. What is the operation you dislike the most? Toenails
  3. What is the operation you like the most? Anything that relieves an obstruction
  4. What is your favourite medical TV show? ER
  5. What is your go-to surgery textbook?
  6. Favourite post-call activity? Canoeing
  7. What is your favourite “go-to” food on call? Something different from Skip the Dishes every time
  8. White coat or hoodie? White coat
  9. Single or double glove? Updated: Single – many people have commented on me single-gloving and were incredulous that I would do the same in Angola. Given the limited supply of gloves in low resource settings and how many times I’ve been stuck with a needle despite wearing two layers, I have decided on the better dexterity of a single layer over the perceived extra protection of two layers.
  10. Dry scrub or wet scrub? Dry
  11. Trauma laparotomy or elective Whipple? Trauma
  12. Inexperienced junior resident or inexperienced ER staff? ER
  13. Open inguinal hernia repair or laparoscopic? Open
  14. Monocryl or skin staples? Monocryl
  15. Perianal abscess I+D or ingrown toenail????? (see above)