Career climb

Photograph of Dr. Suzana Buac on Mount EverestBy Emily Leighton, MA’13

On the ‘roof of the world,’ Dr. Suzana Buac, MD’13, marked a significant milestone in her surgical career.

The Windsor Campus faculty member was climbing Mount Everest, part of a two-week continuing medical education course on wilderness medicine. The session was delivered along the challenging trek to Everest base camp in April 2019.

“We were learning about altitude sickness and experiencing it at the same time,” said Dr. Buac. “It was incredible to experience the scenery of the Himalayas and the unique culture of the people that live there.”

“For me, it was a time for inner reflection as well,” she added.

Having completed the general surgery residency program at Schulich Medicine & Dentistry in mid-2018, the trek took place as she was still transitioning from trainee to independent practitioner.

“From graduating medical school to being an independent surgeon, there is a five-year period to learn a lot,” said Dr. Buac. “There’s the technical skills - the ability to technically perform the operations - that you can learn in less than five years. But what residency training is really about is preparing you to make decisions in all clinical scenarios. And that can’t be rushed.”

Born in the former Yugoslavia, Dr. Buac moved to Canada with her family at age 11 and settled in the Windsor community.

She completed an undergraduate degree at Western University, and remained in London for medical school and residency training at Schulich Medicine & Dentistry. With ties to the Windsor region, she opted for several surgical rotations in the city during her residency program, experiences that inspired her professionally. “I got to know the surgical team and the hospital quite well,” she said. “Getting to know the environment and the job itself was a big part of my decision to practise here.”

Dr. Buac is one of seven general surgeons at Windsor Regional Hospital’s Ouellette Campus. “I enjoy the variety of cases in general surgery, and Windsor offers the entire breadth and scope of the specialty within a tight-knit community.”

As part of her role, Dr. Buac is involved with medical education, working primarily with clerks on rotation. In Windsor, clerks are assigned to one surgeon for their four-week surgery rotation. “It allows for additional coaching,” she explained. “We can talk about their plans, their concerns and their futures. It’s an opportunity to impart tips and tricks, and wisdom about navigating the clerkship process and residency match.”

Working closely with the third-year students, she is continually impressed with their knowledge and enthusiasm for learning. She encourages them to make the most of their medical school experience and keep an open mind.

“There seems to be an ever-growing pressure on medical students to decide their specialty right away, so they can make themselves attractive candidates - to make their CV and application fit completely with that one goal,” she said. “It can be easy to lose focus on the point of medical school, which is to graduate as a well-trained generalist. If you have an interest in surgery, for example, your enthusiasm for other aspects of medicine and other rotations shouldn’t suffer because of that.”

Dr. Buac says she is able to easily connect with the students because it wasn’t too long ago that she was in their shoes. “I’m not that far from where they are,” she said. “It’s been a great experience getting to know the students and I’m looking forward to being more involved with surgical education moving forward.”