Cardiac Surgery Residency Program

Welcome to the Cardiac Surgery Residency Program at the University of Alberta.

Interview/CaRMS Specific Information 

The program director meets with all the candidates to be interviewed on the interview day and provides an overview of the program and the interview process and answers any questions.
Interviews will be scheduled on March 20, 2021. All interviews will be virtual.
The program will notify all applicants through CaRMS Online and will send email invitations directly to applicants selected for an interview.

Contact Us

Steven Meyer MD, PhD, FRCSC 
Program Director, Cardiac Surgery

Ms. Diep Do  
Program Administrator 
Phone: 780-407-7454

Dr. Steven Meyer
Program Director


Ms. Diep Do 
Program Administrator

Welcome to Our Program

We are dedicated to the education and training of future cardiac surgeons. The University of Alberta Cardiac Surgery training program is based out of the Mazankowski Alberta Heart Institute, the sole site for Cardiac Surgery in Edmonton. We are dedicated to the education and training of future cardiac surgeons. The heart institute provides close to 2000 open heart cases annually which include a full spectrum of adult and pediatric procedures including  heart and lung transplantations, ventricular assist devices, minimally invasive procedures, TEVAR, TAVI, and routine cardiac surgery procedures. We do encourage and support basic science and clinical research by our trainees at all levels, with a number of basic science labs run by our staff surgeons. A majority of our residents had obtained either a MSc or a PhD during their residency.

Dr. Steven Meyer MD, PhD, FRCSC  
Program Director

Our Program

Cardiac Surgery Residency Training Program Mission Statement 

Is to prevent, detect, and treat diseases of the cardiovascular system and to provide exemplary patient care. 

To provide a stimulating and challenging educational program for undergraduate and post-graduate students. 

To maintain excellence in patient care, education, research, and to foster a lasting desire for self-improvement through ongoing educational activities. 

Program Highlights


High clinical and surgical volume. We are the sole cardiac surgery centre in Northern Alberta.


Brand new state of the art operating facilities. All cardiac surgery done at a single hospital.


Funding available to attend regional, national and international meetings.

Provide expertise in general cardiac surgery and all subspecialties of cardiac including adult and pediatric congenital cardiac surgery, endovascular surgery (TEVAR), aortic surgery, minimally invasive and TAVI surgery, heart and lung transplantation, mechanical circulatory support, and pacemaker and laser lead extractions.

Very strong academic environment – both clinical and laboratory.

Research opportunities including Clinician Investigator Program.

Residency at a Glance

Learn about each year of the program with an overview of each year.


The PGY-1 year is part of the Surgical Foundations Program at the University of Alberta. In Cardiac Surgery, the block rotations is equivalent to a one month rotation. The first year rotations comprised of the following blocks:

6 – Junior Cardiac Surgery  
– CCU  
– Echo  
– ACES/Trauma
– Cardiac Anesthesia
– Vascular Surgery


The PGY-2 year consists of the following blocks:

2 – Thoracic Surgery
– Cardiac Imaging 
– Cardiac Cath Lab  
– VAD (Selective)
– Cardiac Surgery
– Cardiovascular ICU

PGY 3 - Academic Enrichment Year

Years 3-6 are designed to comply with the Royal College requirements. Historically residents tend to
start their academic enrichment year at the start of year 3. One year is available for "academic
enrichment" which can be extended to two or more years for those pursuing an academic career
and can be taken anywhere between the PGY 3-6. A two or three year of research training leading
to an MSc or PhD can be obtained through the (CIP) Clinician Investigator Program. Funding for this
program must be arranged in advance through the Director of the Clinician Investigator Program.
Clinical research is highly stressed and it is expected that a resident will prepare several
abstracts/publications during their residency. The year available for "academic enrichment" can be used as a clinical or basic science research year. Basic science areas of interest in our Division include xenotransplantation, overcoming senescence in transplantation, pulmonary vascular development, neonatal myocardial protection and fetal surgery and improving homograft valve preservation. A 2-year research period to obtain a Master of Science degree is highly recommended.

PGY 4, 5 & 6
PGY 4, 5 & 6, these final years are dedicated to completing the requirement of the 40 blocks set out by the Royal College of physicians and Surgeons. The following blocks are Core Rotations for Cardiac
surgery. The last nine blocks (Transition to Practice) will prepare a resident to enter practice and
become the independent surgeon he/she is trained to be.
  • At least 20 blocks of cardiac surgery, including three blocks of pediatric cardiac surgery
  • Three blocks of endovascular surgery
  • Three blocks of cardiac catheterization lab
  • One block of cardiac rhythm device implantation
  • No more than 13 blocks of academic enrichment
  • 9 Nine blocks in Transition to Practice

Teaching Hospitals

The majority of clinical exposure in the PGY 3-6 years will be at the Mazankowski Alberta Heart Institute (University of Alberta). All cardiac surgery is done at a single site - the Mazankowski Alberta Heart Institute.

Other sites involved in Cardiac Surgery training for residents are the Grey Nuns Hospital and Royal Alexandra Hospital.

Some residents have chosen their academic enrichment year to train as residents at other centres (e.g. Mayo Clinic). Many of our residents have increased their academic year to 2 years or more to obtain a Masters of Science or PhD degrees. Enrolment in a Clinician Scientist program is highly encouraged.

UAH and STARS helicopter

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the best things about your specialty?
The gratification of knowing that you are directly altering the course of people’s disease process by surgically intervening on a patient population who otherwise would have significant mortality and/or morbidity.  Acquiring the knowledge, experience and technical expertise to care for the most critically ill patients a physician will ever encounter.  Professional autonomy, security, and the opportunity continually evolve as a surgeon with rapidly changing technology. Cardiac surgery epitomizes team-based care: we work closely with cardiologists, cardiac anesthesiologists, cardiac intensivists, perfusionists, and many of the allied health sciences.
What are the worst things about your specialty?
Caring for critically ill patients can at times not have ideal outcomes and this is always difficult to deal with.  In addition our training can be, long ranging from 6 – 10 years following medical school. 
Why did you choose your specialty?

I wanted to be able to directly impact patients’ lives, manage critically ill patients, and make genuine contributions to clinical medicine.

What types of clinical cases do you commonly see?

We typically see patients with surgical cardiovascular disease.  This includes patients with coronary artery disease, valvular heart disease, pericardial diseases, major vascular disease, cardiac arrhythmias and those being assessed for heart and/or lung transplantation.  Paediatric cardiac surgeons encounter a myriad of congenital abnormalities ranging from intra-cardiac shunts to severely mal-developed cardiac structures.

Briefly describe a typical day.

Residents would typically begin the day by rounding on patients in our intensive care unit between six and six thirty.  We then proceed to round on our patients on the ward, with enough time to allow us to be at the operating room by seven thirty.  We then would review the relevant imaging studies for the case that morning including angiography, echocardiography and other modalities.  Then we would proceed with the morning case.  Upon conclusion of the first case we would escort the patient to the cardiovascular intensive care unit.  We then round again on our patients in the ICU and the ward.  We then would review the imaging studies for the next case, and then proceed with the afternoon case.  Upon conclusion we would escort the patient to the ICU and round again on the ICU and ward.  

Depending on the complexity of the cases the day would end between 4 pm and whenever you are done.  The residents and fellows are responsible for in house call throughout their training.  The residents and fellows are also always available for assistance with transplantation.

What are the varieties of lifestyles within your field?

The question of lifestyle is not typically one we ask ourselves.  To quote Dr. Norman Shumway, one of the pioneers of cardiac surgery, “there are lesser and greater things in life to do . . . “.  Having said that the lifestyle is highly variable and depends on the institution one works at, the type of practice plan, the speed of the operating surgeon, and the complexity of the practice profile.  Furthermore, the autonomy and independence one has as a staff surgeon provides for flexibility in one’s lifestyle.

Specifically, how able is your specialty to accommodate family life?

There is no doubt that cardiac surgery is a demanding specialty. However, I don’t know many physicians that have not at some time had to miss a soccer practice, or a family dinner, That said, most cardiac surgeons work as part of medium-to-large group practices which allow them substantial opportunity for time away.

Range of incomes?
This again is variable depending on provincial location, practice profile, seniority, and complexity of one’s practice.  Typically the ranges for all comers would be from >400, 000 dollars per annum.
How do you see your discipline changing over the next decade?
Over the next decade there will ongoing evolution in the landscape of the cardiac surgical practice. Technology continues to evolve, especially in the field of catheter based surgical procedures, robotic surgery, and minimally invasive surgery. There will be increased demands for standard cardiac surgical procedures as well as the population ages and as our abilities to operate on older and sicker patients evolve. Moreover, recent large randomized trials have continued to demonstrate the superiority of coronary artery bypass grafting in patients with multi-vessel coronary artery disease. This will have significant impact on surgical services and the health care system.
Additional Cardiac Surgery FAQ


We asked our residents what they like about Edmonton, their highlights of the program, and one piece of advice for applicants about the interview process. Here is what a few of them had to say.

I enjoy that it is a big city, but has small town vibes. Lots of great food and
breweries to explore. There is also tons of trails and parks to explore. A bonus is you're a close drive to the mountains.

In my first three months as a resident, I was able to open and close the chest on my own, where some surgical colleagues barely make it into an operating room in R1. You also act as a chief resident in many aspects from as early as day 2 of your residency. You have your own service as we do individual rounding, where you make all of the decisions and communicate with your staff directly. The staff surgeons in the Cardiac Surgery program truly have your back and push you to be excellent. We also have great support on our floor from extremely competent nurses and nurse practitioners.

– Devin (PGY-2) 

Our program probably has one of the best balances in Canada between being
hands on with lots of OR experience and exposing you to the advanced aspects of
cardiac surgery, whether that be VAD's, TAVI's, congenital, complex aortic work, etc. Often programs are really good at one or the other, but not both.

– Max (Recent Graduate)

Exposure to one of the highest case volumes across Canada combined with case complexity not seen elsewhere in Canada because of our huge patient referral area with opportunity for independence and mentorship was the perfect combination for what I wanted out of residency. Edmonton is big enough to be the referral center for a lot of things in Western Canada, but small enough that residents are expected to take ownership of patients; this allows residents in Edmonton to stand out.

– Kevin (PGY-2)

Cardiac Surgery at the MAZ is unique because trainees get the best of everything:
operating from day one, lots of independence and responsibility, great staff and colleagues, and fantastic opportunities for translational research. Ultimately, it’s the
full system of support that a trainee needs to become a leading cardiac surgeon.

– Keir (PGY-3)