Sarah Miller

January 2019

It is your Chief year! Did you ever believe this year would come? How would you reflect on the journey overall thus far?

When you match to residency, five-years feels like a long time, but it will fly by!  Finding myself in my last year of training is exciting and slightly terrifying but I am happy to be finishing residency and look forward to the next step in my career.

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 incredibly fortunate that I had the option of a job or a fellowship.  Ultimately, the job won out for various reasons.  I spent a large portion of my residency training in this particular community and I will get to practice with a wonderful group of mentors. It is also very exciting that my fellow R5, Dr. Taylor Bereti, and I are both headed there so we will be able to figure out this whole staff thing together at the same time.

What are you going to miss the most about residency?

The immediate back-up and call for help.  I recognize that this does not go away as an attending, but it is going to be a jump from being the resident to the MRP.  I will also miss the group of people I have gotten to work with the past five years in terms of co-residents and attendings.  We are pretty fortunate at the U of S that we have a great program with wonderful people.

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?

All of my training has been at the U of S.  Prior to my clerkship rotation in surgery, I planned to be a Pediatrician.  That all changed after working with some great surgeons and seeing the breadth and variety in scope of practice.  Ultimately, I knew I would regret not trying for surgery and ended up backing up with pediatric programs.  Leading up to match day, I was convinced that I was going to match to Peds in Newfoundland.  Match day was pleasantly surprising!  I feel incredibly lucky to do this job and I love it.

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 Saskatchewan, and prior to medicine, I completed a degree in Chemistry and an honours degree in French with plans to become a teacher.  For a while, I tried to learn something new yearly.  This involved multiple languages, random instruments, and getting my pilot’s license.  Some of these hobbies have fallen by the wayside during residency but I still love playing the ukulele and plan to learn German next year.

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

I have been able to go on a couple of great trips during residency.  From those, I would say one memorable moment would be going dogsledding in the Yukon.  I thought I would be sitting in the sled but instead, I got to try and control four energetic huskies.  My arms and legs were shaking by the end, but it was a blast.

What was your most memorable night on call?

I distinctly remember the first time I got to operate without the staff scrubbed on call.  That night, the junior and I did a lap chole, an incarcerated incisional hernia, and a laparotomy for adhesiolysis.  The cases were all straightforward, but I remember being incredibly worried that the patients were going to have some atrocious complications.  Thankfully, they all did well but the sudden weight of responsibility was not lost on me.

What was the absolute funniest moment during your residency?

Honestly, the majority that I can think of tend to involve inside jokes that others likely would not find overly funny.  However, I had the opportunity to operate in Guatemala and while trying to tell a patient in Spanish that the Propofol was going to sting as it flowed through the IV, I accidentally told him that it was going to be spicy.  Needless to say, he looked a little confused as he drifted off to sleep!

Do you have any call superstitions or routines?

I tend to have pretty quiet call karma, so I like to tempt fate by saying “it’s quiet”. Unfortunately, it usually stays that way.  A girl can try… I jokingly say I have rainbows and unicorns karma.  It will outweigh the strongest black cloud of any staff person.  As for routines, I always make sure I have supper and lunch for the next day ready to go.

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?

Residency is a long haul and you are going to be working hard.  That’s the point!  You have a short period of time to learn what you need to know to become a competent and safe surgeon.  Take advantage of all the opportunities you get and always remember it is a privilege to be involved in a patient’s care, particularly in the OR.  Ups and downs are to be expected and when it comes to the latter, be open with others around you.  I can guarantee that everyone around you at some point has felt inadequate, behind, or lacked confidence.  Finally, treat everyone kindly and appreciate everyone’s role within the hospital.

Rapid fire:

1. What do you listen to in the OR?

Staff choice up until now.  Anything other than heavy metal is fine by me.

2. What is the operation you dislike the most?

This is not an operation, but I am not particularly fond of performing a rigid sigmoidoscopy for sigmoid volvulus.A potential explosion is too close to my face for comfort.  (Flex sig please).

3. What is the operation you like the most?

Thyroidectomy or parathyroidectomy.

4. What is your favourite medical TV show?

The Good Doctor. Just kidding, that show is awful based on the 20 minutes I watched once.

5. What is your go-to surgery textbook?

Cameron’s.

6. Favourite post-call activity?

As seniors, we do not get post-call so going to work?

7. What is your favourite “go-to” food on call?

Whatever leftovers I made the night before.

8. White coat or hoodie?

White coat.

9. Single or double glove?

Double after being peer pressured to give up my liners.

10.Dry scrub or wet scrub?

Wet.

11. Trauma laparotomy or elective Whipple?

Trauma laparotomy.

12. Inexperienced junior resident or inexperienced ER staff?

Junior.

13. Open inguinal hernia repair or laparoscopic?

Laparoscopic.

14. Monocryl or skin staples?

Monocryl.

15. Perianal abscess I+D or ingrown toenail?

Perianal abscess.