SEAD Program



The Surgical Exploration And Discovery (SEAD) Program is a 2-week summer program for medical students looking to gain multi-faceted exposure to the direct entry surgical specialties at the University of Toronto.  As the first program of its kind in Canada, SEAD pioneers a unique combination of observerships across all surgical specialties, informal discussions on surgical lifestyle and career options given by staff surgeons and current residents, and hands-on surgical skills development through simulation workshops.

Launched in June 2012, this program is fully supported by U of T’s Department of Surgery.  The 2017 SEAD Program will occur between June 5 - June 16, 2017 for 30 first year medical students, with coordination by volunteering second year medical students.

Program Objectives

The SEAD Program is premised on the intertwining 4 ‘Es’:

1) Exposure

Provide exposure to the direct entry surgical specialties and common surgical sub-specialties

2) Education

Provide an opportunity for clinical education to complement didactic learning obtained during the school year

3) Experience

Allow students to develop introductory surgical skills through experience in workshops and simulation labs

4) Engagement

Enable surgeons and students to more closely engage one another

Learn about surgical lifestyle

Facilitate research and mentorship opportunities  

Taken together, the SEAD Program aims to help inform and facilitate surgical career planning early on in a medical student’s education and training.

Participant Curriculum

The curriculum consists of 3 components:

1. Observerships: Every participant will rotate through a half-day in each of the 8 divisions of the Department of Surgery (cardiac, general, neurosurgery, orthopaedic, plastics, thoracic, urology, and vascular) at various hospitals in Toronto.

2. Discussions: Informal presentations from each division will touch on their respective practice scope, academic and clinical responsibilities, and work life balance challenges.

3. Workshops: Hands-on workshops at both surgical simulation centers in Toronto (Mount Sinai Surgical Skills Centre and Li Ka Shing) will introduce basic surgical techniques and provide exposure to common OR procedures through surgical simulation. Some examples of surgical simulation workshops include:

Aortic valve replacement


Virtual laparoscopy

Bone plating

Knot tying and suturing 

Social Program

In keeping with the ‘work hard, play harder’ mentality, SEAD also has a social program for participants and volunteers.


Second year medical students wanting to volunteer with the SEAD program will be either a division volunteer or a volunteer organizing the trauma, paediatrics, and thoracics observerships.

Each volunteer will be assigned to a surgical division, where they will work primarily with the Surgical Lead for Undergraduate Education, but also collaborate with other staff surgeons, residents, and administrative personnel to arrange OR observerships, organize the informal discussion, and develop the workshop related to their division. During the 2-week program division volunteers will accompany participants rotating through their division in the OR and will be present for their respective discussion and workshop.




Applications for participants will be released in mid-February. For the 2017 SEAD Program, applications are due on March 3, 2017.  Applicants are notified of their application status by March 18, 2017.

2017 Participant Application:


The current Director of the SEAD Program will solicit applications and select the volunteers between September and October in the year prior to the SEAD Program.  This will allow time to plan and prepare for the program’s activities.


How will all 30 participants be in the OR together?

Where possible, there will be no more than 2 observing participants per operating room.  Participants will rotate through different ORs (corresponding to different surgical specialties) each morning and come together for informal discussions and workshops each afternoon. 

Will we get to do these simulation workshops in clerkship anyways?

Clerkship students do not participate in simulation workshops like those offered through the SEAD program. These workshops are reserved for residents of the respective surgical specialty with an emphasis on developing competency of the surgical skill. The emphasis for participants of the SEAD program, however, is to gain exposure to more specific surgical modalities in a safe environment thus developing interests and understanding how they relate to each specialty. 

Will we be watching or assisting in the OR?

At the very least, participants will watch one operation per division. By no means will participants be applying what they learned in their simulation workshop on real patients. Active participation of students follows the University of Toronto’s guidelines and is left to the discretion of the particular case, surgeon, and hospital.

How will 2nd year volunteers be involved?

Volunteers will be working with a specific surgical division to arrange the OR observership, develop the related workshop for participants, and assist in the organization of program logistics. Surgical staff and residents will be in the OR, leading the discussions, and running each workshop though. 

How are participants selected?

Each applicant will be required to answer a few short questions for the purposes of selection. The identity of the applicant will be unknown to the selection committee during the selection process.  The quality of the answers provided will serve as the basis for evaluation.

How are volunteers selected?

Each volunteer will be required to answer a few short questions for the purposes of selection. Wherever possible, attempts will be made to match division volunteers with their preferred division.

When will successful applicants be notified?

The 30 selected participants will be notified mid-March and must confirm within two weeks of receiving the offer. If spots become available, applicants will be notified on a rolling basis off a waiting list.


If you have any questions, please contact the current Director of the SEAD Program at

The current Director for 2017 is Kimia Sorouri.



Below is a link to the inaugural year's program.

Below is a link to an article from the Toronto Star featuring the SEAD program.

Toronto Star Article