Education is important in the Department of Surgery at the University of Alberta. Our program is one of the strongest and most innovative in the country; we provide medical students with the skills they need in their careers, and we produce well-trained graduates who are ready for surgical practice. Over the last 5 years, we have strengthened our undergraduate program in particular and the classes of 2010 and 2011 ranked #1 out of 17 medical schools in the discipline of surgery at the national licensing examinations. Our residency training programs are also strong, and this year will see our 5th annual Teacher-Training Workshop for residents in surgery. We have a strong faculty with a broad range of clinical skills who have extensive experience in a variety of educational methods.
Our Department is also the originator of the successful ‘Surgery 101’ podcast series, which has been downloaded over 500,000 times in more than 100 countries worldwide. ‘Surgery 101’ is one example of the way that we are exploring the use of new technologies in surgical education. Our Department’s prominence in education at the provincial and the national level has continued to increase, and in November 2011 we hosted the national meeting of the Canadian Undergraduate Surgical Education Committee (CUSEC) here in Edmonton. This meeting saw a record attendance for CUSEC, with more than 80 registrants, and many of our local surgical educators presented their work to students, residents and faculty from across Canada and beyond.
We have also started to develop a program of research in surgical education at the University of Alberta, with several studies completed, manuscripts submitted and presentations given at national and international meetings. We have sponsored a number of summer studentships in education and the first of our surgery residents to gain a Masters Degree in Educational Psychology graduated in 2011. More residents are currently enrolled in the new Masters in Health Sciences Education.
In 2011, Dr Jonathan White was appointed as our University’s inaugural Tom Williams Endowed Chair in Surgical Education, with a mandate to further strengthen our surgical education programs, and to direct a program of surgical education research. This is an exciting development, and will allow us to build on the firm foundations we have laid down. Dr White will work closely in this endeavour with Dr Bin Zheng, our new Endowed Chair in Surgical Simulation, and with the increasing number of members of the Department who have gained Masters Degrees in Education.
Our foundations are firm, our investment in surgical education is starting to pay off, and the future is promising. The time is ripe to capitalize on our successes so far and to build for the future. It is in this setting that we have created a new group devoted to research and innovation in surgical education at the Department of Surgery.