The Department of Surgery places a strong emphasis on education for medical students, residents, and fellows. The medical knowledge and development that occurs within the department stem from a defined curriculum, dedicated faculty, and an environment for optimal care for adult and pediatric patient care.
The general surgery residency at IU School of Medicine is a competitive five-year program that exposes residents to all facets of surgery, including trauma, vascular, pediatric, transplant, and reconstructive surgery. Through the general surgery residency curriculum, residents receive a solid broad-based clinical education and opportunity to excel both in the operating room and at the bedside.
We sat down with several of the current residents in general surgery to talk about their experience.
Dr. Mohammad Zaidi – Fourth-year resident
What made you decide on the IU School of Medicine general surgery program?
While I was a medical student at Emory School of Medicine, I asked my program director for advice on programs that were similar to Emory’s surgical program in size and that scope. He brought up IU as a program, and he had really great things to say about the people and the training here. He encouraged me to interview and when I did interview the people here really won me over.
How would you describe your experience here in Indianapolis?
Being from Atlanta, Indianapolis is a very different place from Atlanta in terms of its size and diversity. It was a little bit of a culture shock moving here, and that took a little bit of time to get used to. When I started, I felt a little intimidated by the city but those feelings quickly went away. The people in the program and in the community here are incredibly welcoming and all the fears or anxieties that I had immediately disappeared. It only took a couple of weeks for me to feel at home here, which I appreciated a lot.
How do you feel about the education and training you are receiving?
I think that the scope of things that we need to learn and accomplish during residency are met and exceeded here. I feel I’m experiencing things that are really unexpected and go above and beyond the normal curricula that a lot of places have.
Now moving towards the end of my third year of training, there are things that I feel like I would not have been able to accomplish as much had I been in another program, just based on the devotion to surgical education and the high volume of cases here.
How did COVID-19 affect your training or education? How do you think your department handled the situation?
I think the staff did a good job based on having to balance everything from the clinical administration, to public health experts, the Centers for Disease Control, surgical societies, on what to do and how to handle the situation.
The surgery department did really well at sending us updates on a daily basis during the peak of the crisis, checking in with us, always being available and really being flexible with schedules and making sure the minimum number of residents who needed to be in the hospital were there to keep us safe. I think they handled the crisis as best as I can imagine, and they were incredibly open to suggestions. So, if anything wasn't working it was almost immediately changed right away.
How would you describe your previous year?
Last year I felt like I hit a stride. The exposure to the operating room increased a lot. My comfort and handling of certain situations like trauma situations increased. I felt confident in my clinical decision-making and, I was allowed to take risks in terms of how I interpreted certain findings. Having that autonomy as a junior resident really helped build my confidence in terms of how I take care of patients and make decisions. This year I was doing a research year in a lab, so a lot of that momentum that I was building stopped suddenly, and I now have to transition back into a clinical setting.
How do you feel the surgery department has supported you throughout your training?
There’s a lot of energy from the faculty in terms of helping us just be doctors. The first year there's a lot of oversight, checking the boxes, and feedback given to learn the ropes. As you get into the higher years, the faculty mentorship transitions towards helping you achieve specific goals. For example, I'm interested in becoming a surgical oncologist, so my faculty mentors have now transitioned from just helping me make decisions in general, to helping shape my views and beliefs and thoughts and practice as a future surgical oncologist.
How do you feel about the support you get from your peers?
My intern year, my original class that I started with is very close. We still have a text thread for the nine of us that started together that we still use on a weekly basis. We check in with each other, we have dinners, we really support each other through this process.
When I went into the lab and came back to continue my clinical training course the whole residency program had shifted because people who were my upper levels had now graduated, people who were behind me were now ahead of me in clinical training, but luckily some of my same year residents went into labs with me and were all coming back together to continue our clinical training. You meet people all the time that you may have not been that close to you before, and you develop those relationships and friendships through training, and it's always been supportive.
What do you look forward to next year?
I’m looking forward to my operative experience growing exponentially. I will get to have an opportunity to be a leader as the chair of residency council next year. I look forward to helping form and shape the residency program. I think the program leadership is open to change, and that openness to make things better actually translate into action at a rapid pace. It's exhilarating and scary and exciting at the same time because you want to make things better.
The views expressed in this content represent the perspective and opinions of the author and may or may not represent the position of Indiana University School of Medicine.
Marco Gutierrez is a communications coordinator for the Indiana University School of Medicine, where he supports the Department of Surgery and the Office of Strategic Communications. Before joining the Office of Strategic Communications, Marco worked for...