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Resident spotlight: Dr. Rebecca Zener - Training for the thrill of adventure

Dr. Rebecca Zener’s life doesn’t lack adventure. The fourth-year radiology resident has visited more than 50 countries and participated in unique recreational activities. Now, her training combines her love for travel with her passion to improve global health.

Where were you born and raised?
I was born and raised in Toronto, Ontario.

What degrees do you have, and from what universities?
Honors BSc in Biology, Western University (2007)
MD, University of Toronto (2011)

What special interests or hobbies do you have?
I love downhill skiing — I used to teach and race competitively back in the day. International adventure travel is also an interest of mine, as I've traveled to more than fifty countries and counting. Some travel highlights include: interacting with Moken sea gypsies while exploring the untouched Mergui Archipelago in Myanmar, going on an expedition through Palawan on an old fishing bangka boat, hiking in Easter Island, building houses in rural Madagascar, Orangutan trekking in Borneo, snowshoeing in Tierra del Fuego, diving with giant mantas in the Maldives, and wreck diving Japanese warships.

Why did you choose to pursue your residency and Schulich Medicine & Dentistry?
Schulich Medicine & Dentistry’s radiology program is known for being well rounded and comprehensive. The staff is friendly, supportive and great at teaching. Our on-call responsibility is huge, and we have exceptionally high volumes, which puts us in good stead for future practice. There are also many opportunities to learn technical skills on numerous rotations.

What inspires you in your work?
I am really drawn to global health, and that interest developed when I was living and volunteering in Nepal at age 18 during the civil war. We are fortunate to live in a country where we have access to modern technology and high-end imaging modalities. My international health experiences inspire me daily to image wisely.

I am currently on rotation in Cambodia, working among the nicest and most welcoming group of staff and residents I have ever met. The case diversity is tremendous, with late stage presentation of many conditions and infectious diseases we rarely see back home. In contrast to Canada, the majority of the imaging investigations in Cambodia are positive.

What has been your greatest experience to date in your residency?
From a clinical perspective, the greatest experience in my residency occurred when I was only a few weeks into my first rotation. I had the opportunity to embolize a life-threatening hemorrhage in a young unstable patient. It was a great feeling to have staff encourage me, and trust my ability and judgement in order to give me that level of responsibility and autonomy at that stage in my training. Moreover, it was a pretty exhilarating experience to save a patient's life in less than 30 minutes with a four-millimetre incision! The patient even got to go home the next day, without any real scar or lengthy recovery. It was truly the light-bulb moment when I realized I want to sub-specialize in interventional radiology.

From a non-clinical perspective, I love being involved in medical education and patient-centered care research. Presenting research at major international conferences, winning the Radiologic Society of North America Roentgen Resident Research Award, and having one of our research projects listed as one of the best scientific radiology papers of the year was an amazing experience.

Overall, I have been fortunate to have a number of fantastic faculty mentors who have been encouraging, kind and supportive throughout my training.

What do you do when you're not working?
When I'm not working, I like to cook risotto, learn about wine, walk my dog, visit art galleries, and spend time with family and friends in Toronto.