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Planting the Seed Early: Breakfast with the Chair Sessions

Jim Rutka and participants
Breakfast with the Chair - Year 2 students (left to right) - Eric Lai, Jesse Kancir, Marko Skrtic, Eric (Kun) Huh, Vicki Wang, Gavin Hamilton with Jim Rutka

Few of us can likely recall what our understanding of the field of surgery was as we entered medical school. Our interests grew as we acquired more knowledge in class, and practical experience on the wards. For this reason, this year I started an initiative of inviting Year 1 and 2 medical students to the Banting for breakfast while we spoke about what a career and life in surgery looks like in 2012. I have explained to them that, for the most part, surgeons are trained, and not born; that the technical skills of a surgeon are acquired over years of practice and repetition; that a surgeon is a leader of a team in the operating room; and that surgical residency training is well regulated these days with a balance of challenging, and not so challenging rotations. For some, the length of training to be a surgeon is an issue, as they may have been to graduate school already, and may have acquired a significant debt load. But it has been a great opportunity for me to express how gratifying the life of a surgeon can be.

As with many of you, I enjoy the opportunity to intervene in a patient’s life at a time that is critical; I have always enjoyed the practical use of anatomy learned in medical school; I have especially enjoyed the technical side of surgery; I am comfortable with the decision making and the speed with which patient care is administered at times in surgery; and I actually prefer to look after the disease processes that face a surgeon.

Towards the end of each session, we talk about the particular challenges that a life in surgery brings, and the importance of maintaining one’s balance point throughout residency, and throughout life. In the end, I am hopeful that we are opening the eyes of some of our medical students to a world of surgery that may encourage them to apply for residency after clerkship. At the very least, it has reminded me of my early days in medical school, and how much I enjoyed learning the art and practice of medicine and surgery.

James Rutka

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