Thoracic Surgery Residency Program

Welcome to our program

Welcome to the Thoracic Surgery Residency Program at the University of Alberta. This new U of A residency program is a two-year surgery subspecialty recently accredited by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.

We are dedicated to educating and training excellent thoracic surgeons. The University of Alberta Division of Thoracic Surgery cares for a large volume of patients with benign and malignant thoracic surgery conditions, and residents in this program will be exposed to the full breadth of the specialty. The six surgeons in the Division are all award winning teachers who are passionate about education. The program is designed with education as the top priority, and supports such as 24-7 ward coverage means the resident’s time is dedicated to learning opportunities in the OR, endoscopy and clinics and not to performing service work. Graduating residents will be experts in minimally invasive and open approaches to surgery of the thorax, advanced endoscopy, as well as the management of complex clinical presentations.

Dr. Simon Turner

Dr. Simon Turner

Thoracic Surgery Residency Program Director

Our mission

To create the best learning environment in the country for the training and development of future thoracic surgeons. We aim to train leaders and experts in thoracic surgery who will provide excellent patient care.

Program highlights

Large clinical volume

  • Over 350 lung and 50 esophageal resections per year.
  • Exposure to the full spectrum of thoracic surgery disease including benign and malignant conditions of the lung, foregut, chest wall, mediastinum, pleura, trachea and diaphragm.
  • 7-8 operating days per week.

Expertise

  • Become skilled in complex minimally invasive surgery and advanced endoscopy
  • All six thoracic surgeons in the Division are award winning teachers and passionate about education. Program Director Dr. Turner holds a Master’s degree in Education and is the director of the national prep course for the Royal College exam.

Support

  • While the resident is given responsibility for running the thoracic surgery service, during the day a hospitalist provides routine management of inpatients and consults, and clinical associates provide ward coverage overnight, meaning the resident is free to attend the OR, endoscopy and clinic without interruption.

Exposure

  • We are one of the largest lung transplantation programs in the country.

Learning opportunities

  • We accept only one resident every two years to ensure the entire program is dedicated to providing the best training for the sole resident.

Research opportunities

  • Available in an array of clinical and basic science and surgical education studies.

Interview/Matching specific information

Interview Process

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.

Interview Dates

Interviews will be scheduled in accordance with the Thoracic Surgery national residency match, approximately 18 months prior to the start date. We accept residents every other year in odd years (i.e., interviews in Feb 2024 for a July 2025 start date).

Notification/Invitation

The program will notify all applicants by email in accordance with the Thoracic Surgery national residency match and will send email invitations directly to applicants selected for an interview.

Contact Us

Program overview: What to expect

Residency at a glance

YEAR 1

  • Thoracic surgery (6 blocks): The resident will participate in the operating room up to 4 days per week, with 1 day of clinic or endoscopy per week and a protected academic half day. The resident will be responsible for management of the inpatient and consult service.
  • Cardiac surgery and lung transplantation (3 blocks): The resident will gain knowledge of intra-pericardial and mediastinal anatomy, cardiac physiology, performance of sternotomy, vascular anastomoses and techniques of lung transplantation.
  • Elective (3 blocks): Based on the resident’s career goals and personal learning objectives.

YEAR 2

  • Thoracic surgery (12 blocks): The resident will steadily gain autonomy in patient management and in the operating room and by the end of the year will be ready to practice and operate independently. A dedicated transition to practice program will introduce increased clinical and administrative responsibility at the end of the year to prepare the resident for their career.
Teaching hospitals

The majority of clinical exposure in the two years will be at the Royal Alexandra Hospital , in Edmonton, Alberta. All thoracic surgery is done at this hospital and residents are not responsible for any service at any other site while on thoracic surgery rotations.

The other site involved in thoracic surgery training for residents is the Mazankowski Alberta Heart Institute where cardiac surgery and lung transplantation rotations are held.

Program supports

Residents will benefit from weekly clinical and academic teaching rounds, including multidisciplinary lung and esophageal tumour boards, benign foregut rounds, thoracic radiology and pathology rounds. An academic half day curriculum, journal clubs and oral exam practice will prepare the resident for thoracic surgery practice and for success in the Royal College examination. The resident will be expected to complete one research project over the two years and will participate in the teaching and supervision of junior learners.

Life as a Thoracic Surgery Specialist

Learn more about what to expect as a thoracic surgery specialist from Dr. Simon Turner.

What are the best things about your specialty?

The variety of disease processes and operations in thoracic surgery is one of the best things about the specialty. There are big, complex open operations as well as meticulous minimally invasive surgeries. The opportunity to care for oncology patients and offer a meaningful chance of cure is incredibly rewarding.

What are the worst things about your specialty?

The high proportion of oncology cases in thoracic surgery means we do sometimes manage patients with cancer recurrence and progression or complications related to treatment. This can be a challenge for some, but the high-stakes nature of the specialty is part of what makes our work so meaningful.

Why did you choose your specialty?

Thoracic surgery is fun, challenging and very rewarding. Most thoracic surgeons are happy and love their job and that makes for a great work atmosphere.

What types of clinical cases do you commonly see?

The most common diagnosis a thoracic surgeon deals with is lung cancer, but we manage a wide array of benign and malignant diseases of the lung, esophagus, mediastinum chest wall, pleura, diaphragm and trachea. There is a combination of elective and non-elective presentations, including trauma.

Will going into this speciality allow me to accommodate my family life?

While any surgical specialty requires a high degree of dedication to the profession, a career in thoracic surgery is very compatible with a family life and a comfortable lifestyle overall. True emergency surgeries are not common, which allows for less work on the evenings and weekends and more time spent at home.

How do you see your discipline changing over the next decade?

The introduction of lung cancer screening programs will detect more early-stage, resectable lung cancers, meaning more need for thoracic surgeons. In addition, ongoing advances in neoadjuvant and adjuvant treatment of thoracic cancers means thoracic surgeons are more involved in multidisciplinary treatment decisions, adding complexity to the specialty. Technological advances like robotic surgery, advanced endoscopy and image-guided surgery will continue to evolve.