Shahrzad Joharifard

January 2018

Shahrzad Joharifard

University of British Columbia

January 2018

Q1) It is your Chief year! Did you ever believe this year would come? How would you reflect on the journey overall thus-far?

We had our graduating resident photo shoot recently and I was reflecting on how surreal it is that we are nearing the end of a difficult but incredible journey. I am so thankful to my fellow chief residents for making the past 5 years fun, fulfilling, and always full of laughs.

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?

Next year, I will be stationed in Harper, Liberia, West Africa where I will be helping Partners in Health build a surgical program. There are only a handful of surgeons in Liberia and I will be the only surgeon in the eastern part of the country. Simultaneously, I will be completing the summers-only Master’s in Public Health at Harvard. Finally, in August 2018 I will be starting Pediatric Surgery fellowship at CHU Sainte-Justine in Montreal.

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

Without a doubt, I’ll miss my co-residents the most.

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 medical school at Duke. My original intentions were to pursue a career in medicine and ID, given my long-standing passion for global health. I fell in love with surgery during my clinical clerkship thanks to the indelible influence of incredible surgical mentors. I still keep in touch with my residents and fellows from clerkship, two of whom are now attendings at Duke. I am so grateful to them for showing me that most surgeons do not live up to the popular stereotype.

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 was born in Iran to an Australian mother and Iranian father. We moved to West Vancouver, BC in 1991, where I subsequently began playing field hockey. I played on the Canadian Junior National team for several years and ultimately I went to Princeton, where I captained the field hockey team during my final year. One of the best things about coming home to Vancouver for residency was that I was able to start playing field hockey again. I joined the Vancouver Meralomas, where I play in the top division with current national team players who run circles around me. We’ve been league champions the past several years.

Q6) What was your most memorable night on call?

I spent 6 weeks of my R4 year at Mbingo Baptist Hospital in northwest Cameroon. My most memorable night on call happened at Mbingo, where I did my first three C-sections, a neonatal laparotomy, and a Burr hole. Suffice to say that I learned more from my African co-residents than I could ever have taught them

Q7) What was the absolute funniest moment during your residency?

The funniest moment is only funny in retrospect. It was the first week of residency and my first time closing an abdomen. Of course, no one really tells you how to control that long strand of 0 looped PDS. So after I put the top anchoring suture in, I began raising my hand above my head in an attempt to take the slack out of the PDS. I raised my hand so high that I punctured the IV bag on anesthesia’s side of the curtain, which caused fluid to literally gush out of the bag! I was mortified! Thankfully, Dr. McGregor recognized my predicament and took the now- contaminated needle driver out of my hand, cut the suture, and asked the scrub nurse for a new PDS. He earned a special place in my heart from that day forward.

Q8) How about the scariest moment during your residency?

The first time we lost a patient on the table.

Q9) Do you have any call superstitions or routines?

I brought my own pillows and duvets to the hospital and leave them in a cupboard in the senior call room. This guarantees that if I do make it to the call room, I’ll get a few hours of sleep free of alternating chills and sweats due to the plastic covers on the hospital mattresses and pillows.

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?

When I was wrapping up medical school, my mentor, who was then a cardiothoracic surgery fellow at Duke, told me that the key to being a good resident was enthusiasm. I would pass that piece of advice on to the residents starting in July. Be enthusiastic about every opportunity that comes your way during residency and you will come out the other side feeling as excited about the specialty as you did on match day.

Q11) Rapid fire:

  • What do you listen to in the OR? Whatever the attending wants to listen to — I can’t wait to have control of the music!
  • What is the operation you dislike the most? Breast lumpectomy.
  • What is the operation you like the most? Popliteal embolectomy.
  • What is your favourite medical TV show? Scrubs.
  • What is your go-to surgery textbook? Cameron’s and Greenfield’s.
  • Favourite post-call activity? Sleep.
  • What is your favourite “go-to” food on call? Coffee.
  • White coat or hoodie? White coat or UBC vest.
  • Single glove or double glove? Single… yes, even though I work in Africa.
  • Dry scrub or wet scrub? Wet.
  • Trauma laparotomy or elective Whipple? Whipple.
  • Inexperienced junior resident or inexperienced ER staff? Inexperienced ER staff. A competent junior resident is irreplaceable.
  • Open inguinal hernia repair or laparoscopic? Open.
  • Monocryl or skin staples? Monocryl.
  • Perianal abscess I+D or ingrown toenail? Perianal abscess — because there’s nothing like seeing the joy on a medical student’s face the first time you let them make a cut and they see pus pouring out!