Resident Spotlight: Dr. Rachel Liu, General Surgery

No two days are the same for Dr. Rachel Liu. As a fourth-year General Surgery resident, she enjoys the wide range of cases and patient populations the specialty covers, from elective surgeries to trauma cases to transplants.

From the early days of medical school, Dr. Liu knew surgery was the right fit. She says the unique training opportunities available at Schulich Medicine & Dentistry set the School’s General Surgery program apart.

During her residency training, she has been involved in a number of research projects, focusing on resident wellness and the imposter phenomenon. “The program helps residents identify their interests early on and creates a personalized residency training experience.”

What has been the most rewarding aspect of residency?

The relationships I develop with my patients are truly the most rewarding aspect of residency. One thing I did not fully appreciate before entering residency is what a privilege it is to have patients and their loved ones place their trust in me when they are in their most vulnerable moments. Creating a safe space for them to express their fears and then putting those fears to rest by explaining the course of the illness or surgeries needed in simple words can be more gratifying than performing the surgeries themselves.

Why did you choose the School’s General Surgery residency program?

I love the vast scope of practice and the people I get to work with – I feel at home. I went across the country doing electives in different cities, and the experience I had at Schulich Medicine & Dentistry was unique – I even first-assisted a liver transplant. There was no looking back from that day on and here I am.

What is the program’s biggest strength?

The program’s biggest strength is that it is resident focused. Because there are so many career paths in General Surgery, the program helps residents identify their interests early and creates a personalized residency training experience. Residents can use one year of their training to focus on research and complete a master’s degree, and still complete their residency in five years.

What types of cases and patient populations do you work with?

In General Surgery, we tend to a vast variety of issues from head to toe – GI tract, hernias, cancer, trauma, skin, transplants, the list goes on. We see patients of all different ages and walks of life, which also makes this specialty so interesting.

As a resident, I am exposed to all areas of practice under the umbrella of General Surgery. In any given week, I could perform elective surgeries like removing troublesome gallbladders, perform endoscopy, see patients in clinic and make plans for their newly diagnosed cancers, manage unstable patients who have suffered a major trauma, and assist with a liver transplant. No two days are the same.

What learning opportunities have you pursued as a resident beyond the clinical environment?

I’ve found myself working on more than a dozen research projects in residency and was fortunate to present my findings at international meetings. I have a special interest in resident wellness and one of my projects looks at the impostor phenomenon, which many residents experience.

Apart from research, a particular highlight outside the clinical environment was representing Schulich Medicine & Dentistry at the National Laparoscopic Suturing Championships for the past two years.

What do you enjoy most about living in London?

Gibbons Park! It is such a peaceful retreat from the constant hustle of the hospital.