Surgeon Scientist Program

Surgeon Scientist Program

Why Research?

Research is an essential component of a vibrant and progressive Department of Surgery. Through research discoveries, patient care is ultimately improved. Although it may take years of sustained research and evaluation, many of today’s life-saving therapeutic interventions were initially derived from the work of surgeon-scientists. Several modern concepts in medical education came from surgeons engaged in research. Epidemiological studies on clinical outcomes were similarly driven by surgical investigators. Innovations in immunotherapy and translational research continue to be performed by surgeons.

A number of surgical residents will wish to integrate research as part of their career path. For these individuals, the research program will facilitate their research goals by identifying appropriate mentors.  The majority of residents, though, will not undertake formal research as part of their practice. Nevertheless, residents in this program should still undertake research training to become well-versed in the process of scientific methodology. Why? The research skills obtained can be translated and validated in clinical patient populations. For example, a patient presents with a clinical problem; a hypothesis is developed as to the underlying etiology derived from history and physical examination in the form of a differential diagnosis; the methodology takes the form of investigations are undertaken to clarify the clinical picture; the investigations are collated and interpreted providing results; and the provisional diagnosis is the conclusion drawn following interpretation of the investigations. The critical thinking skills acquired during this process will enhance decision-making regardless of one’s career path or site of clinical practice.


Clinical performance is the most essential component of residency training and a successful surgical career. It is hoped that the thought process, critical thinking, and discipline involved in the establishment of a productive research endeavor will translate into successful clinical practice.

PGY-1. During a one month period in the fall of the PGY 1 year there will be an introduction to critical thinking and incorporation of scientific methodology to clinical practice. This will take the form of (1) introductory seminars in the essentials of establishing research credentials; (2) critical review of seminal papers in the surgical literature; (3) interviews with prominent clinician-scientists and research scientists in UBC, including MDs in Surgery Departments.

PGY-2. During the PGY2 year, there will be a one month period dedicated to research time. This time period will be dedicated to formulating either a longitudinal research project that will continue on to the completion of residency training, or developing a plan to address a series or research-related questions that could take the form of separate 1-2 year projects. These projects could include, but not be limited to, a meta-analysis, clinical practice audit, case-control studies, outcomes analysis, clinical trials, or basic research studies. For residents seriously considering entering a dedicated research year (or more), this will provide an opportunity to prepare a formal research proposal for submission for peer-reviewed research fellowship awards.

Research Year. Currently, funding is provided through the General Surgery Residency Training Program for all residents to pursue a research year, usually in the PGY-3 or PGY-4 year. Residents will be asked to identify a supervisor (not necessarily within the Division of General Surgery) and submit a formal research proposal. Residents may also enroll in the MSc in Surgery program. If a candidate wishes to pursue studies or a degree program outside the UBC environment, this is possible, but a justification must be provided to the REC for consideration. Additional years for research training will depend upon successful attainment of external funding from research organizations. Starting in 2012/2013, residents committed to a research year will have funding available from the Associate Dean of Postgraduate Training. This commitment would be demonstrated by successful submission for peer-review research awards or creation of a strong research application.

For residents who are not enrolled in this dedicated research year, it is still expected that they will continue with their longitudinal research project established in the PGY 2 year.

Senior Years: Continuation of research project(s) established in PGY-2 and PGY-3 years.


The expectations are that one would be able to take a project from conception through to its completion. This would entail developing a hypothesis, designing a project around the hypothesis including background information, accumulation and analysis of data, and formulating conclusions. These are the minimum expectations:

1.  Three resident research day presentations including the initial proposal most likely as a poster presentation in either the PGY-1 or more likely in the PGY-2 year. This will be followed by at least 2 oral presentations where data from ongoing research are presented. A presentation at the Department of Surgery WB & MH Chung Research Day would count towards one of these presentations.

2.  At least one presentation at a national or international scientific meeting where the abstract undergoes rigorous peer-review. Presentations at regional meetings, such as BC Surgical Society meeting, are also encouraged, but this meeting does not meet the pre-requisite peer-review criteria. (This meeting does provide exposure for residents seeking staff positions in communities around BC).

3.  At least one manuscript is completed, submitted, and accepted in a peer-reviewed journal.

Research Mentor

Identification of a research mentor will be a critical decision. The mentor will be expected to help you develop your research plan through to its completion. (S)he will be expected to assist you in the logistics of research such as preparing abstracts and presentations for scientific meetings, and providing general support and advice. (S)he should meet with you on a regular basis throughout the year with the frequency depending upon various abstract or presentation deadlines. The Surgeon-Scientist Research Committee can provide assistance to you in identifying an appropriate mentor.

Program Support

The General Surgery Surgeon Scientist Committee members will provide ongoing support to the residents in terms of general and specific advice related to research matters. For example, the committee would assist in identification of research mentors, identify intellectual resources related to specific research projects, and provide assistance with formulation of research projects, abstracts and presentations. Members of the committee will meet with the residents at least annually to formally review the residents’ progress and to assist in any resident concerns and formulate solutions to identifiable problems that the resident has encountered.

The General Surgery Program will provide financial support on an annual basis to residents presenting at pre-approved scientific meetings. The Program will also partner with the resident’s research mentor to provide 50% of expenses to residents who are presenting at a second pre-approved scientific meeting. Residents who demonstrate satisfactory progress on their research initiatives throughout their residency will be funded for travel to the American College of Surgeons Annual Congress or the Canadian Surgery Forum in their final year, and one pre-approved annual surgery review course such as the University of Toronto Update in General Surgery.

Stephen W. Chung, MD, PhD, FRCSC
Professor of Surgery
University of British Columbia
Medical Director, Surgical Services
Vancouver Acute – VGH & UBCH