Two uOttawa surgery residents discuss their Shanghai elective

Posted on Thursday, October 4, 2018

Since the uOttawa Faculty of Medicine signed a partnership with the Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine in October 2014, the two schools have collaborated on many international medical initiatives and expanded opportunities for learners.

Recently, two residents in Postgraduate Medical Education (PGME) surgical specialties completed electives in Shanghai. Dr. Brent Trull of uOttawa’s Plastic Surgery Training Program completed a placement at the Sixth People’s Hospital in Shanghai in summer 2017 and Dr. Sean Bennett of uOttawa’s General Surgery Training Program completed a placement at Xinhua Hospital in June 2018.

“These opportunities for uOttawa surgical trainees in Shanghai are very exciting,” said Dr. Sudhir Sundaresan, chair and chief of the Department of Surgery at uOttawa and TOH. “Our Canadian surgical residents are exposed to a huge population in China with massive surgical volumes that offer conditions considered rare in our health system. Working with a diverse population will no doubt enhance cultural sensitivity skills in the increasingly multicultural Canadian milieu.”

Trull, who completed a month-long elective in orthopedic surgery at Sixth People’s Hospital, said that the language barrier was, naturally, the biggest challenge for the clinical rotation. However, with the aid of translators, he was able to ask questions on cases of particular interest. He was also able to provide hands-on assistance with surgical operations.

“The operative experience was more engaged,” added Trull. “The cases varied significantly each day, ranging from distraction osteogenesis for chronic osteomyelitis to toe-to-thumb transfer for hand reconstruction — something rarely undertaken in Ottawa, by nature of patient volume and selection.”

Bennett, who went to China in summer 2018, echoed many of Trull’s sentiments with regards to his own experience with a general surgery elective at Xinhua Hospital.

“While language was a barrier both inside and outside the hospital, the hospitality was warm wherever we went. It was a privilege to be welcomed into the operating room and be able to assist with complex procedures. I learned many different techniques that I may not have been exposed to in Ottawa,” said Bennett. “Having a good preceptor who spoke English made all the difference in being able to discuss the things I observed on surgical rotations.”

Bennett feels the preceptor was key to his experience. He recommends that residents going on this elective connect with their preceptors ahead of time via email to get a sense of what to expect.

“I sincerely hope to see an expansion of these exciting opportunities for our residents in the months and years to come,” said Sundaresan, who added that the Canadian system of surgical training, with foundations in simulation-based training and graded surgical responsibility, is also a huge asset to the Chinese health system.

These bilateral connections represent important achievements for the Ottawa-Shanghai partnership, opening doors to new opportunities for international medical training.

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