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Finding a Job in Manitoba

Bradley Pilkey M.D., FRCSC
Winnipeg, MB

There is no specific cookbook approach to finding an orthopaedic surgery job in Canada. My approach combined careful thought, serendipity, and some good luck along the way. I am very pleased to share my past experience with those who may be interested.

I grew up in Saskatchewan and lived there until fellowship. I went to medical school and did my residency at the University of Saskatchewan. Early in fourth year residency, I was not absolutely certain about a career path. I enjoyed all subspecialties in orthopaedics, was uncertain about academics versus nonacademics, and, additionally, how subspecialized I wanted to become.

At that time, I did have an interest in trauma and lower extremity reconstruction. I discussed this with one of my mentors, Dr. Bill Dust, who was our Programme Director. Based on the fact that I was somewhat indecisive about my future direction, he suggested that I consider trauma as part of my fellowship training. We discussed the high likelihood of having to take call no matter where one ended up: thus some degree of trauma training would be beneficial in the future.

I did not entertain the possibility of training or working in the United States at that time. Our family felt that staying in Canada was in our best interests. After living in Saskatoon most of my life, I wanted to work and live at the other end of the spectrum. I focussed my attention on finding a fellowship in Toronto. Dr. Dust was very instrumental in helping me set up a fellowship with Dr. Joseph Schatzker. This allowed me to go to Toronto and work at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre.

My experience with Dr. Schatzker was extremely enriching, as he shared a lot of wisdom with me regarding orthopaedic surgery skills, the practice of orthopaedics, and life outside of the profession. During that year I was able to work with a lot of other surgeons at Sunnybrook, and I was able to learn a very broad approach to clinical practice and orthopaedic trauma.

As luck may have it, I had only been in Toronto for five months when another year of fellowship was offered to me, working with Dr. David Stephen and Dr. Hans Kreder. It certainly altered my original plan of one fellowship year. However, it gave me the skills to do complex trauma and lower extremity reconstruction. With the additional pelvic and acetabular training, my fate was sealed, opening the door for an academic job in a level-1 trauma centre. I felt that it would be easier to start out in an academic position, as opposed to going from community practice to academics.

Due to the SARS crisis, the Annual Meeting of the Canadian Orthopaedic Association was cancelled in Toronto, postponed, and rescheduled for Winnipeg in the fall of 2003. Around that time I had sent out e-mails to most academic centres in Canada to enquire about job opportunities in their respective regions. I attended the COA meeting in Winnipeg and was able to network with various physicians. I had talked to various recruiters as well.

In the end, I had four job interviews in various academic centres in Canada. I was able to narrow that down to two sites: staying at Sunnybrook in Toronto versus going to the University of Manitoba and working at the Health Sciences Centre. The decision was an extremely difficult one. To stay in Toronto, there was a requirement to do a Masters degree, which was not overly appealing to me. After years of training including two years of fellowship, I wanted to focus primarily on clinical practice as opposed to research.

More importantly, Winnipeg provided an attractive opportunity to help build a trauma programme. There were guarantees for salary and OR time. The city appeared to be a great place to raise a family and the cost of living was quite reasonable. We felt it was more like home, with family being closer.

If I could do it all over again, I would not change a thing. In terms of advice for those looking for work in the future, keep your options open as long as feasibly possible. Be open-minded and be willing to relocate if need be. There are and will be numerous opportunities in orthopaedics in Canada. Try to improve your CV to be as marketable as possible.

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