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"The Typical Surgeon is…"

The Life in Surgery (1) committee hosted its second event, "Surgical Stereotypes", in early May at the Faculty Club. The purpose of the event was to deconstruct stereotypes inherent within the surgical culture. The evening was hosted by surgeon scientist Carol-Anne Moulton, the leader of the Life in Surgery group and featured two prominent education researchers, Maria Athina Martimianakis and Simon Kitto. The evening began with light appetizers and drinks while undergraduate medical students had the opportunity to mingle with committee members, Ron Levine, Jim Rutka and other invited guests.

Maria Athina Martimianakis, Carol-Anne Moulton, and Simon
(Left to right) Maria Athina Martimianakis, Carol-Anne Moulton, and Simon Kitto

The Life in Surgery committee presented a panel comprising medical students Jenny Jin, Annie Leung, residents Francis Zih, Ian Choy, and Lakho Sandhu, fellow Sandra deMontbrun, and staff surgeons Steven Gallinger and Alice Wei. The panelists shared their perceptions and experiences of surgical stereotypes. Research in the medical sociology and professional identity literature was presented on how these stereotypes are developed, understood and enacted, and how they might be adaptive and necessary as well as maladaptive and harmful. Dr. Martimianakis, a cross-appointed scientist at the Wilson Centre and SickKids, offered her perspective based on her own research, which explores professional identity. Dr. Kitto, also a scientist at the Wilson Centre, shared his insights regarding stereotypes as a medical sociologist who has been studying surgeons for over a decade.

The forum explored the surgical stereotypes, perceived personality traits and gender issues and the way these are perpetuated within medical and social communities. The audience engaged the panel in discussion around the socialization process in surgery, the formation of professional identity, and the ideal surgical personality. When asked to describe the ‘surgical personality,’ students replied that the medical and social culture forges an image of a surgeon as quick, decisive, active, efficient, certain, and usually a white male. However, after hearing personal anecdotes from the panel, it was evident that there is a spectrum of types of successful surgeons that do not conform to this widely perceived stereotype.

It is important that both genders are mindful of the lifestyle and culture of surgery. For this reason, the group has broadened its mandate to mentor, guide and empower male and female students at all stages of their medical career. The Life in Surgery group is a platform for building stronger relationships between faculty and trainees and a forum for exploring the pertinent issues medical students are facing when deciding upon a surgical career. These relationships lie at the foundation of the educational process. We encourage students to join us in the Life in Surgery events during our next academic year.

Priyanka Patel

(1) Formerly Women in Surgery

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