Graduating Residents of 2016
It was just a few weeks until their Royal College exams, Drs. Winsion Chow, Jordan Glicksman, Samantha Tam and David Yeh exuded a quiet confidence. For them, the past five years can best be described as a marathon – a long, steady journey that challenged them every step of the way, while inspiring them to attain the expectations of excellence that come with being a resident in the Department of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery.
The postgraduate training program is considered one of the toughest in the country. Each year, approximately 40 medical students apply for only a few coveted spots in the five-year program that has a reputation for excellence and no room for complacency.
“Looking from the outside in, I saw a tremendous dedication to teaching and research, and this inspired me,” said Dr. Yeh, who completed his undergraduate medical education at the University of British Columbia before heading east to Schulich Medicine & Dentistry.
Dr. Yeh wasn’t disappointed when he arrived and neither were his peers. “The bar is set high from day one,” said Dr. Chow. “But that’s a good thing; it has forced all of us to rise to the occasion.”
Completing his medical degree at the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, Dr. Chow was very familiar with the program and the faculty and he wanted to train with the best. “You want to go into a program that gives you the opportunity to learn from the best surgeons in all the areas of otolaryngology,” he said. “During the past five years, we’ve been able to train in all surgical approaches - open, endoscopic, and microscopic surgery.”
Throughout their training, residents divide up their time between the four main sub-groups of specialization including: rhinology and plastics; general otolaryngology, otology and neurology; adult head and neck; and paediatrics.
Dr. Yeh quickly embraced this strategic approach to training and saw how it creates a solid foundation for collaboration with peers. “It was great to be able to get in-depth training in all the different subspecialties,” he said. “It presented me with opportunities for collaboration – which is essential in delivering patient care.”
Dr. Tam agrees.“Gaining experience in the subspecialties is a great opportunity as a clinician and it helps you to refine your research,” she said. As they progressed through their clinical training, the award-winning trainees have actively engaged in research. Collectively, the four have nine ongoing research projects and a slew of publications and presentations to their credit.
“Each year you are expected to get involved in a different research project, and the focus can change from year to year,” said Dr. Chow. “I came from a basic science background and adapted to oncology research, but then began getting more involved in research focused on the cost analysis related to medical equipment.”
Meanwhile, Dr. Glicksman took a year off from his residency to pursue a Master’s of Public Health at Harvard University. He’s grateful to the faculty who supported him during his graduate studies.
All four agree that the Department’s strong leadership, faculty support and mentorship from their peers and surgeons contribute to the rich and supportive learning environment that has helped them to get through the more difficult times. “This is a tight-knit, collegial program,” said Dr. Glicksman. “We are surrounded by strong role models and mentors who help to nurture a team environment and make sure we don’t fall behind.”
“The faculty are with us the whole way through,” added Dr. Chow.
Dr. Tam agreed, sharing that the support doesn’t end upon graduation. “Their investment in us continues,” she said. “Throughout our time here, we’ve seen them do this with other senior residents – and we know that they will be there for us too once we have moved on to other roles.”
Reflecting on the past five years, the residents are modest about their achievements. “There were some definite milestones,” said Dr. Chow. “Such as doing our first surgery, inserting the first tubes, having your first on-call airway, and walking a junior resident through the procedures; these are our successes.”
They all agree that graduating will be the highlight. “When I started in the program, I asked myself, how am I going to operate? I can barely suture,” said Dr. Tam with a smile.
“We knew we would make it through though,” added Dr. Yeh with a laugh. “I feel proud of the progress we have made during our residency and the difference we have made in people’s lives.”
Unfazed by challenge, the four soon-to-be graduates have their plans firmly in place for the next phase of their careers: Dr. Chow is hoping to set up a practice in general otolaryngology; Dr. Glicksman will be pursuing a fellowship in rhinology and skull-based surgery at the University of Pennyslvania; Dr. Tam is heading to MD Anderson Cancer Center for an advanced fellowship in head and neck oncology; and Dr. Yeh will be staying at Schulich Medicine & Dentistry also pursuing an advanced fellowship in head and neck oncology and microvascular reconstructive surgery.
They will join an elite group of surgeons across the country who have benefitted from the training at Schulich Medicine & Dentistry. And they will be sharing their expertise to enrich patient care experiences across North America – confident that their training has prepared them for what lies ahead.