Dermatology: Resident Reflections

Jan 31, 2018

Cathryn Sibbald, MD, BScPhm
PGY5 Dermatology, University of Toronto

I went into dermatology because it is one of the few specialties where you can see dozens of patients a day and have a visible and meaningful impact on their lives. In a single clinic, you can encounter diagnostic challenges, perform small surgical procedures, see dramatic changes in a patient’s skin from treatments you prescribed, and interact with patients of all ages and backgrounds.
The residency program at the University of Toronto was an easy choice, with its reputation for superb teaching and resources. As residents in Toronto, we rotate through an endless number of specialty clinics and practices, including the pigmented lesion, skin cancer and cosmetic clinics at Sunnybrook, the phototherapy, wound care and Mohs surgical unit at Women’s College, and dermatosis-specific and multidisciplinary clinics at SickKids.
The teaching we get is truly unparalleled. The formal curriculum is extensive and includes full day lecture and interactive teaching sessions on a weekly basis for senior residents, as well as basic science and surgery lecture series. Even more meaningful is the impromptu teaching that we get on a daily basis from the staff we work with in clinics. I don’t think there has been a single day where a staff or fellow has not taken the time to sit down and teach, often with whiteboard markers or PowerPoint presentations in hand. At the heart of much of the teaching is our program director Dr Walsh, whose incredible knowledge is matched by his great dedication to teaching us. This is well recognized by other dermatologists who refer a constant stream of patients to him for his expertise; and by dermatology residents from across the country who do electives with him in their final year.
The research opportunities are also endless, and the affiliation with the University of Toronto allows us to take advantage of its many library resources and teaching programs. I have been involved in many projects, and it is through the connections of our program that I was able to do an international research elective in England last year. There are staff involved in all types of research, who are enthusiastic and welcoming of working with residents. Beyond research, there are also many opportunities to be involved in teaching for the undergraduate medical students and residents from other programs.
An experience that I was not prepared for was the wonderful mentorship that I have experienced throughout my residency. From my first year when Dr Shear sat down with the residents individually to discuss our goals, I have had such supportive and influential conversations with him as well as other faculty.  In our final year, we have the unique opportunity of running a weekly senior residents clinic. I was so grateful for the invaluable advice that I received from my supervisor Dr DeKoven to avoid rookie mistakes and improve my efficiency. There is a true sense that all our supervisors are invested in our learning and success.  
There are countless other examples I could provide on the many strengths of the residency program here. For trainees who are interested, electives are a great way to get a taste of the clinics and teaching, and I would encourage you visit the Dermatology Residency Training Program page for more information.

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