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Neurosurgery Residency Program

Welcome to the Neurosurgery Residency Program at the University of Alberta.

 

Facilities 

HOME OF THE STATE OF THE ART RAY RAJOTTE SURGICAL MEDICAL RESEARCH INSTITUTION FOR SIMULATION TRAINING

 

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SMALL COLLEGIAL PROGRAM, 1.5 FACULTY MEMBERS FOR EACH RESIDENT

 

technologies 

ADVANCED TECHNOLOGIES, INCLUDING 3T MRI AND GAMMA KNIFE AT THE UNIVERSITY OF ALBERTA HOSPITAL SITE

 

Interview/CaRMS Specific Information 

Details regarding interview dates: Interviews will be scheduled on March 10, 2021. All interviews will be virtual.

Notification/Invitation: Program will notify all applicants through CaRMS Online and will send email invitations directly to applicants selected for an interview.

Details regarding the interview process: Interviews will be conducted by faculty members and Neurosurgery residents, and will cover a variety of topics including some clinical decision making scenarios. Candidates will rotate through multiple interview stations.

All applicants to the Neurosurgery Residency Program at the University of Alberta are required to successfully complete an online assessment (CASPer), to assist with our selection process and maintain admission eligibility.

CASPer is an online test which assesses for non-cognitive skills and interpersonal characteristics and will complement the other tools that we use for applicant screening. In implementing CASPer, we are trying to further enhance fairness and objectivity and reduce bias in our selection process.

The CASPer test is comprised of 12 sections of video and written scenarios. The test typically takes between 75-90 minutes to complete. No studying is required, although you may want to familiarize yourself with the test structure at takeCASPer.com, and ensure you have a quiet environment to take the test.

Please go to takeCASPer.com to sign up for the Canadian Postgraduate Medical Education test (CSP20201) and reserve a test using a piece of government-issued photo ID. You will be provided with testing dates and times. Please use an email address that you check regularly; there may be updates to the test schedule. In order to take CASPer, you will be responsible for securing access to a computer with audio capabilities, a webcam, and a reliable internet connection on your selected test date.

Contact Us

Dr. Michael Chow
Program Director, Neurosurgery

Jennifer Granfield 
Program Administrator 
Email:  nsurgpg@ualberta.ca
 


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Dr. Michael Chow
Program Director

 

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Jennifer Granfield
Program Administrator

Welcome to the Neurosurgery Residency Program

Neurosurgery training requires a high level of cognitive ability and technical skill. Neurologic localization and microsurgical skill are both equally important in successful neurosurgical practice. The ideal candidate is a self-motivated, collaborative individual with a strong work ethic. As many neurosurgical patients present with high acuity and are often quite sick, residents need to be able to multi-task and have effective coping mechanisms for stressful situations. Attention to detail is of utmost importance.However, since many of our procedures are life-saving, the reward makes it all worthwhile.

The program at the University of Alberta is one of the top training programs in Canada. We perform ahigh volume of operative cases which leads to early and extensive clinical exposure for our trainees. Our program is relatively small with a high ratio of staff surgeons to residents. This leads to more personal attention to training than offered in larger programs. In addition, we offer exposure to all of the neurosurgical subspecialties within the program. Access to new neurosurgical technologies is at least equal to or better than most any other program in Canada.

Our program is a minimum of 6 years with the opportunity of extending the length of training if one is interested in obtaining an advanced degree like a Masters or PhD. The 4 th year of training is designed asa flexible year that allows the resident to pursue research or further clinical training, including community neurosurgery exposure or in-folded fellowship training. Our goal is to produce well-rounded neurosurgeons that will be successful in either academic or non-academic neurosurgical practice.

Dr. Michael Chow
Program Director


Our Program

The Neurosurgery Residency Program at the University of Alberta is a fully accredited program by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. Relatively small in size with 11 residents, supervised by 16 faculty members, the program's collegial atmosphere and large catchment area provides many learning opportunities. 


Led by Program Director, Dr. Michael Chow and administered by Jennifer Granfield, the program's primary objective is to develop competent, well-rounded neurosurgeons capable of practicing the art of neurosurgery in either a community or academic environment. Our flexible program allows for customized training to each learner's specific interests and needs. The success and well-being of our neurosurgical graduates remains a source of pride for our residency program.

Program Highlights

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Residents are exposed to a robust and diverse clinical experience at three sites: University Hospital, Royal Alexandra Hospital and the Stollery Children's Hospital. (Over 2500 clinical operative cases are done annually).

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The University of Alberta Neurosurgical Residency Program offers a unique PGY 4 experience. Residents are able to explore research interests, pre-fellowship interests and/or further clinical experience (academic or community) during this year.
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A formal academic schedule exists for Neurosurgery residents, including Gamma Knife Rounds, Journal Club, Neuroscience Grand Rounds, Quality Assurance Rounds, and Neurosurgery case rounds and didactic rounds. Regular sessions in our Simulation Lab are scheduled throughout the year.

Residents gain experience in all aspects of subspecialty Neurosurgery and new innovative Neurosurgical equipment. (Complex spine, neuro-endoscopy, deep brain stimulation, endovascular neurosurgery, functional neurosurgery and gamma knife).

Residents receive expense coverage for meetings, microneurosurgical symposiums and review courses.

Home of the state of the art Ray Rajotte Surgical Medical Research Institution for simulation training. Previous host of the Neurosurgery Rookie Camp.

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Advanced technologies, including 3T MRI and Gamma Knife at the University of Alberta Hospital site.

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Dedicated faculty research coordinator with bi-annual one-on-one meetings and quarterly group sessions.
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Upon completion of training, graduates from the University of Alberta become competent in performing the full spectrum of neurosurgical practice.

Large catchment area includes Northern and Central Alberta, Northern BC and the Northwest Territories ensures high procedural volume. 

Broad representation of all subspecialties (vascular/endovascular, neuro-oncology and skull base, radiosurgery, complex spine, epilepsy, functional, pediatrics, peripheral nerve).

Annual program retreat in the Rockies.


Program Supports

  • Approachable Program Director
  • Continuous assessment/feedback, and dedicated faculty
  • Residency Program Committee meetings, open to residents

Residency at a Glance

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

Year 1
The PGY-1 year is part of the Surgical Foundations Program at the University of Alberta. In Neurosurgery the PGY-1 rotations are: one 28-day block of Coronary Care Unit, one 28-day block of Emergency Medicine, two 28-day blocks of General Surgery, one 28-day block of Anesthesia, six 28-day blocks of Neurosurgery, one 28-day block of Pediatric Neurosurgery and one 28-day block of vacation.
Year 2
The PGY-2 year consists of: 7 blocks of Neurosurgery at either the University of Alberta Hospital or the Royal Alexandra Hospital, 3 blocks of ICU, 2 blocks of Neurology and 1 block of Neuroradiology.
Year 3
To fulfill Royal College requirements, in this year, the resident will spend 3 blocks on Neuropathology, 1 block on Gamma Knife and 1 block on Interventional Neuroradiology. The remainder of the year is spent on Clinical Neurosurgery rotations.
Year 4
This year is designated for research or may be utilized as dedicated time to pursue a clinical elective. If the resident desires to obtain a Masters or PhD, additional years may be accommodated.
Year 5 and 6
These final 2 years are utilized to fulfill the current requirement of 42 months on the Clinical Neurosurgical Service. At least 12 months will be spent as the Chief Resident. With the shift to Competency Based evaluation, the last 3 months will be Transition to Practice. As residents graduate into their senior years, responsibilities will include running the teams at the University site, presenting cases at QA rounds and case presentation rounds, organizing schedules and running the Neurosurgery Intensive Care Unit with the Neuro-Intensivist.

Residents are encouraged to attend at least one Neurosurgical meeting or symposium per year and are expected to develop fluency in case and paper presentations at the weekly Neuroscience Grand Rounds.  A didactic schedule of lectures given by faculty runs throughout the year to cover the entire curriculum in a 3 year cycle.  Written exams after each block are administered as well as a practice oral exam yearly.  The Annual National in-training written exam is also administered.  Practice oral examinations are offered by faculty members in preparation for the Royal College Neurosurgical Fellowship Examinations for those residents in their final year of training.

Upon completion of training, graduates from the University of Alberta become competent in performing the full spectrum of Neurosurgical practice.


Research Opportunities

The Division of Neurosurgery at the University of Alberta has been active in clinical and basic scientific research, offering Masters and Doctoral programs. Our research endeavors currently include the study of:

  • Aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage
  • Blood transfusion in subarachnoid hemorrhage
  • Clinical Trials of aneurysm treatment
  • Dendritic cell immunotherapy for malignant gliomas
  • Quality of life measures in brain tumour patients
  • Neuroanatomical impact of radiation therapy in the treatment of glial tumours
  • Cervical spondylotic myelopathy
  • Spinal cord regeneration
  • Management of spinal cord injury
  • Hydrocephalus Research
  • Use of diffusion tensor imaging in the intra-operative MRI environment
  • Neuroimaging biomarkers of response to surgical treatment of epilepsy and trigeminal neuralgia
  • Neuroimaging features of treatment-resistant depression
  • Impact of deep brain stimulation therapy on speech and language function
  • Quantitative assessment of gait and postural instability in Parkinson's disease patients undergoing DBS

Teaching Hospitals

We are a fully accredited program that follows the guidelines set out by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. Our program is four core years spent in general pediatrics at multiple locations.

University of Alberta Hospital 

Royal Alexandra Hospital 

Stollery Children's Hospital 

UAH and STARS helicopter

Subspecialities 

Possible subspecialities residents can explore after finishing the program.

  • Spine
  • Functional
  • Vascular
  • Oncology
  • Pediatric
  • Trauma
  • Peripheral Nerve
  • Radiosurgery

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some strengths about your specialty? What draws and keeps people in your specialty?
Fascinating anatomy and physiology, exciting surgery, and lifesaving interventions. Neurosurgeons operate throughout the body on the brain, spinal cord, and peripheral nerves. A wide variety of pathologies are treated such as vascular abnormalities, tumors, trauma, epilepsy, spinal conditions, and congenital abnormalities. A variety of high-tech tools facilitate our practice.
What are some common complaints about your specialty?
Challenging cases – high acuity, sick patients requiring urgent intervention. Sometimes tragic outcomes can occur. Technically demanding.
Why did you choose your specialty?

Technical specialty with a wide degree of variety. Neurosurgery is not only concerned with restoring structure but also with maintaining function. Numerous avenues for research and scholarly pursuit – we know so little about the human brain.

How do you see your discipline changing over the next decade?
Increased use of technology. Emphasis on minimally invasive approaches. Treatment of a broader range of neurological illness.

Resident Testimonials

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.
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What do you like about Edmonton: There is a great sense of pride from Edmontonians towards their city. It offers all the modern amenities of a large city, with a small town feel. The newly developed Ice District, centered on Rogers Place arena with our booming Edmonton Oilers is a new area of excitement for the whole city to enjoy. The University of Alberta Hospital is located adjacent to a major shopping area with plenty of restaurants and shops to visit. There are many affordable places to live for residents with young families in nearby neighbourhoods. Edmonton has a large area of green space for enjoyment of outdoor activities all year round.

What are the highlights of the program for you: We have a high operative volume with a large staff to resident ratio. The breadth of sub-specialty expertise amongst our staff covers the entire realm of neurosurgery, now including peripheral nerve and gamma knife. Our close association with the dedicated neuroICU offers more exposure and training in aspects of critical care such as airway management and central venous access. The Stollery hospital located within the University of Alberta Hospital offers continuous exposure to pediatric neurosurgery throughout our residency. The Royal Alex rotation allows the chance for a junior resident to assume senior level responsibilities and operative exposure. Our truly flexible 4th year allows each resident to tailor their training to their their individual needs, whether it be research-oriented, clinical electives, or an enfolded fellowship.

What is one piece of advice that you want to share with applicants about the interview process: The 2021 interview season will be unique in that the majority of applicants will not have had a chance to visit our site for a clinical elective due to pandemic restrictions. While this may be discouraging to candidates, remember that everybody is in the same boat. Just as the candidates may not be sure which part of their applications will be the most important, neither does the interviewers. This will be a learning process for everybody, so try not to stress too much about things that are beyond your control. Be yourself and answer truthfully and that's about all you can do. Good luck!

– Dr. Michael Keough (R4)
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What do you like about Edmonton? I’ve lived in three provinces—I like to think I’m more of a Canadian veteran than a vagabond. I moved to Alberta for training but it has grown into my home. Edmonton is a highly livable and affordable city with the bustle of an urban metropolis, bisected by the bucolic river valley and teeming with greenspace, surrounded by car-hungry roads beckoning a trip to the mountains. The bipolar weather will advance your journey to enlightenment: Cold winters build character and may have dubious health benefits (pain relief, endorphin release…life prolongation and immortality? A quick literature search supports none of these, but remember, Californians literally pay for whole-body cryotherapy), while warm summers are conducive to hiking, camping, and sun basking in reptilious fashion. Lots of festivals, food, and fun in non-pandemic times.

What are the highlights of the program for you? Our program is strong and well-balanced. Edmonton is an operative juggernaut with high clinical volume, early exposure, full subspecialty coverage, and emphasis on technical mastery. Research is similarly emphasized with yearly projects, a dedicated research year, and support for enfolded advanced degrees. The ratio of staff to residents is 2:1, and you develop close mentorship and camaraderie with each respectively. U of A boasts enticing facilities: we have one of 2 dedicated Neuro ICUs in Canada, surgical simulation laboratories, a Gamma Knife unit, an intraoperative MRI suite, a 3D exoscope, to name a few. Our graduates emerge as competent neurosurgeons who attain coveted fellowships and are hired broadly across Canada, the US, and abroad.

One piece of advice you want to share with applicants about the interview process? For interviews: know thyself and be yourself. For residency: you get out what you put into it. Neurosurgery will challenge you physically and mentally, personally and professionally. There is no substitute for passion—whether that leads you to a career in neurosurgery or to other green pastures. Passion is both the elixir that elevates your energy and sustains your efforts, and the antidote that counteracts stress and buffers against burnout. The idea of work-life balance within neurosurgery is as quixotic as it is subjective. When it comes to our resident lifestyle, everything in moderation includes moderation. Between the high tides of hard work and sleepless nights, enrich your body and mind in a way that sustains you, as residency is a marathon made of many micro-sprints.

– Dr. Alan Rheaume (R3)