Message from the Vice Chair, Education

Dr. David A. Latter

The Department of Surgery's mandate is to educate and train the best surgeons of tomorrow.  This is perhaps a bold statement, but one that we do our best to achieve.  The Department educates learners in surgery at all levels, ranging from medical students, residents to clinical fellows.  Our Department is one of the biggest departments in the world for surgical education.

The teaching executive includes our Postgraduate Director (Dr. Ronald Levine), our Undergraduate Director (Dr. George Christakis), our Associate Director for Undergraduate Education (Dr. Maurice Blitz), our Director of Evaluation and Teaching Innovation (Dr. Melinda Musgrave) and myself as Vice-Chair, Education and Director of Clinical Fellows.  Important supporting personnel at our Stewart Office include: Tess Weber (Postgraduate Co-ordinator), Postgraduate Assistant, and Undergraduate Co-ordinator.

Our Teaching Sites
There are four main downtown University of Toronto fully affiliated teaching hospitals: St Michael’s Hospital, Sunnybrook Health Science Centre, The Hospital for Sick Children, and University Health Network (Toronto General Hospital, Toronto Western Hospital, Mt Sinai Hospital, and Princess Margaret Hospital). The Mississauga campus comprising Trillium Hospital and Credit Valley Hospital are fully engaged with undergraduate education with a cohort of 54 Mississauga based clerks per academic year. In addition to these primary sites, our learners also train at partially affiliated teaching hospitals: St Joseph’s Hospital, Toronto East General Hospital, North York General Hospital, Etobicoke General Hospital, and Humber River Regional Hospital. Additional community based hospitals also receive elective students and residents.

Undergraduate Program
Our undergraduate programs for medical students are coordinated by our Department in conjunction with the four academies: Wightman Berris at UHN, Fitzgerald at SMH, Peters Boyd at Sunnybrook and Mississauga Academy at Trillium and Credit Valley. Each academy has assigned an onsite supervisor to ensure that medical students receive the best possible education. At the Wightman Berris Academy is Dr. Fred Gentilli, at the Fitzgerald Academy is Dr. Robert Stewart, at the Peters Boyd Academy is Dr. George Christakis, and at Mississauga there are Drs Abdollah Behzadi and Christiane Werneck. The clerkship curriculum consists of 8 weeks sometime between August of the third year to Dec of the fourth year of medical school. The clerkship consists of a week of intense preparation with a series of key lectures, skills session in the Surgical Skills Lab, and interactive case presentation lectures. In the winter/spring semester of year 4 we offer a number of surgical selectives for interested students.

Postgraduate Program - Residency
The Department does exceedingly well at the CaRMS match. For the last 5 years every PGY 1 position was filled in the first iteration of the match. This demonstrates the desirability of our residency programs. For postgraduate residency education each Division has a Program Director in charge of their training program. The list of program directors includes:
Dr. Robert Cusimano (Cardiac Surgery), Dr. Najma Ahmed (General Surgery), Dr. Ab Kulkarni (Neurosurgery), Dr. Peter Ferguson (Orthopedic Surgery), Dr. Mitchell Brown (Plastic Surgery), Dr. Robert Stewart (Urology), Dr. Andrew Pierre (Thoracic Surgery), Dr. George Oreopoulos (Vascular Surgery), Dr. Agostino Pierro (Pediatric General Surgery), Dr. Helen Macrae (Colorectal Surgery), and Dr. Francis Wright (General Surgery Oncology).

The Competency Based Curriculum in Orthopedic Surgery which began in July 2009 and has been a large success. Many of the ideas the Division of Orthopedics implemented have already been adopted by our other divisions. We now have a PGY 1 boot camp for every surgical division. With Competency Based Medical Education (also referred to as Competency by Design by the Royal College) being incorporated into all residency programs we are fortunate to have many local experts in this area from our orthopedic division.

The University of Toronto Surgical Skills Centre at Mount Sinai Hospital continues to offer excellent teaching of surgical skills to our residents. Dr. Oleg Safir (Director), and the skills centre manager Lisa Satterthwaite and her team, work hard to assist the acquisition of surgical skills by our trainees in an environment outside of the operating room. All PGY1s and 2s take the Principles of Surgery Core Surgery Lecture Series which is managed by Dr. Maurice Blitz. The high success rate of our students at the Principles of Surgery Exam is a testament to the hard work of all who participate in the preparation of the Core Surgery Lectures for PGY1s and 2s, and the Principles of Surgery practice exam.

A series of resident education days such as Orientation for PGY1s, Surgeon in Society, and Resident as Teacher Day for PGY1s and 3s, are given to our residents to better prepare them for their careers in surgery.

Our Surgeon Scientist Program (SSP) continues to deliver world class educations in basic science research, clinical epidemiology, and education research. These SSP residents earn higher level degree MSc or PhDs. The achievements of our surgeon scientist residents are celebrated at our annual Gallie Day.

The Surgeon Scholar Program continues to be successful. In this program surgical resident students can pursue scholarly achievement in non “scientific”, non traditional fields of study, such as MBA, law, or other fields.

Clinical Fellowship Training
The Department of Surgery has approximately 170 clinical fellows and some 30-40 research fellows at any one time. Three quarters of our clinical fellows are international in origin demonstrating how highly regarded these clinical fellowship are. The breadth and depth of the surgical experience our clinical fellows receive reflect directly back on our Department by way of how successful our graduates are in their subsequent surgical careers.

Staff Development and Continuing Medical Education
The Centre for Faculty Development is a valuable resource that members of our faculty continue to use. Department members enroll in the various workshops, Stepping Stones Program, or the Education Scholars Program. Every year the Department, in collaboration with the Centre for Faculty Development, holds a Faculty Development Day with lectures and workshops specifically designed for surgeons as teachers. The Department supports other faculty development initiatives such as Leadership Day.

Continuing Medical Education continues to play a major role in our Department’s activities. Every year, our Department hosts over 20 major CME events. Many of the CME programs are the major CME event for their specialties in Canada and attract surgeons from around the world.

The Department has an annual Faculty Development Day which for the first time was held in conjunction with the Department of Anaesthesia on November 11, 2016. The day was composed of a joint plenary session and work shop sessions. 11 different workshops were offered to our participants.  The afternoon sessions were held separatly for each department and addressed more department specific issues.

In summary, the Department of Surgery educational programs are strong. Each student, no matter what level, is challenged to learn and achieve their full potential.

David Latter
Vice-Chair, Education 

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