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SEAD Director Neil D’Souza

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Neil with Wife Tiffany and Dog Wellington

Neil D’Souza is a third year medical student on his surgical rotation with plastic surgeons Melinda Musgrave and James Mahoney at St. Michael’s Hospital. He is the surgery clerkship co-representative and, having participated in the Surgical Exploration and Discovery (SEAD) Program in its inaugural year, was selected as the Director in 2013 during his second year. Following undergraduate work in radiation medicine at the University of Toronto, he served as a radiation therapist at the Odette Cancer Centre before entering medical school. Through his various student led roles, he liaises with George Christakis, Ron Kodama, and Jim Rutka, soliciting feedback from students which helps drive continuous improvement for undergraduate surgical education. Neil has considerable experience in quality improvement, as he was the Quality Assurance coordinator for the Radiation Oncology Program and Co-Chaired the QA Committee during his years working at Sunnybrook.

Neil earned a Master of Health Administration degree in the Institute for Health Policy Management and Evaluation at the University of Toronto. He found the combination of this administration experience with frontline work in the health system both rewarding and important. “It gave me a better understanding of how our complex health care system works. I also learned from my fellow classmates who were working in various leadership roles. Further, our lecturers were themselves leaders in health care, from hospital CEOs to academic scholars – it was a privilege to have close interactions with a breadth of experienced individuals such as Raisa Deber, Ross Baker and Adalsteinn Brown. ” Neil would like to be involved in health policy work when he finishes his training, and maintain an active participation in frontline healthcare similar to Dr. Calvin Law - a role model for Neil who serves as Head of the Odette Cancer Centre while continuing a very active surgical practice at Sunnybrook. Drs. Gillian Thomas and Andrew Loblaw, radiation oncologists at Sunnybrook, have also been important role models and mentors over many years working together.

Neil found his leadership role in the SEAD Director position to be extremely rewarding. Neil was responsible for leading the program, and worked with a team of 9 fellow classmates to organize OR shadowing, surgeon “lunch and learns” and hands-on workshops. The SEAD Program received coverage in the Toronto Star, where Dr. Christakis, Dr. Tsirigotis (Cardiac surgery resident), SEAD participants and Neil were featured (see article). The SEAD Program idea has caught the interest of other medical programs, spreading to Ottawa, McGill and some programs in the United States. The teaching in the SEAD Program provides a very rewarding engagement with surgical staff - for example in replacing an aortic valve in a pig heart. “As UofT medical students, we are very fortunate to have some of the best surgeons in the world right here in our own back yard. They love to teach, and when they see interested students, such as in the SEAD Program, they are happy to take time out of their busy schedules to educate potential future surgeons. Some students said that the SEAD Program was the highlight of their medical career so far. Another said ‘I learned more on one trauma shift than I did all year in class.’ The students would very much like to have a similar SEAD Program for the second year.”

In his leadership role in the SEAD Program, Neil found Drs. Rutka, Christakis and Kodama to be great sources of support and mentorship. Neil was an outstanding student as an undergraduate and graduate student with important scholarship awards, grants, and publications. Neil has also worked with the general surgery group at Toronto Western Hospital, doing research with Drs. Alan Okrainec and Timothy Jackson, and learning about teaching surgical technique by tele-simulation. Some of his extra-curricular volunteer activities include being an executive member of the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of Canada, a mentor/teacher for the Saturday Program and member of the student health team for the IMAGINE clinic.

Outside of his academic pursuits, Neil enjoys travelling with his wife Tiffany, most recently on a tour of Italy. Together they enjoyed the sights, sounds and food of Bari, Rome, Venice, Florence and Sorrento. He enjoys hockey, basketball, and golf, and playing with his daschund Wellington. Neil has a fair share of health care influence in his family; his wife Tiffany works at Sunnybrook as a nurse on the Acute Care Nursing Resource Team, his sister is a public health nurse for the Ministry of Health, his mother a was unit coordinator at North York General Hospital and his great aunt was the Director of Nursing at Rumialah in Doha, Qatar.


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