McMaster University

McMaster University

Faculty of
Health Sciences

McMaster surgeon cuts new path for women

Published: June 19, 2012
Susan Reid
Dr. Susan Reid, an associate professor and, starting July 1, 2012, chair of the Department of Surgery at McMaster

When Dr. Susan Reid graduated from the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine in 1987, more than half of her class of 100 were women, but she was the only one to go into general surgery.

When she finished her residency in surgery and fellowship in critical care in 1993, less than five per cent of all Ontario surgeons were women. That has risen steadily and is currently more than 20%, according to the Ontario Physicians Human Resources Data Centre.

Now Reid is the first woman to become a chair of a Department of Surgery of a Canadian medical school, when she takes the position at McMaster on July 1. She will head an academic department of almost 90 full-time and 190 part-time physician faculty members, and 143 medical residents and fellows.

"The time was right for me then, and it’s right for me now," says the associate professor.

As a student she was attracted to McMaster’s medical school because of its promise of the small group, problem-based learning style. She found she loved the independence. She stayed at McMaster for her residency because, she says, the school had the best general surgery training program in the country.

"I’m originally from Toronto, but after being here for medical school, I wanted to stay in Hamilton. McMaster is small enough to be very collegial, less formal and there’s a lot of direct contact with senior faculty members. But we’re also very busy clinically, you get a lot of experience and we work closely with patients."

Reid has continued teaching since she was a resident and she has held many leadership roles in the department’s educational program and won several teaching awards. She has also taken national leadership positions and she is currently the past president of the Canadian Association of General Surgeons.

Her research interests are centred on surgical education. She has looked at how students make the decision to go into a surgical career; the importance of surgical clerkship during medical training and currently is focused on researching the development of teaching skills in faculty.

"Our department is ready to move forward with our research mandate in a variety of areas, particularly evidence-based surgery. We have some of the best programs in Canada, with emerging leaders in clinical surgical care, education and research."

Since she graduated in 1993, Reid has worked for Hamilton Health Sciences as a general surgeon and an intensivist. Her primary clinical interests are breast cancer and critical care.

A surgical practice can be very rewarding as it can have a good work to life balance for both women and men, she says. "There are so many opportunities, if you want to work in the community, or in academia; if you want to work in education or research."

Reid, 50, says the fact that she’s the first woman to chair a department of surgery for a Canadian medical school, is "sociologically interesting. It speaks to the demographics of the surgeon population in my age group. As time goes on we’ll have more women in surgery and more women in leadership positions."


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