A Teaching Hospital

Preparing the Next Generation of Cancer Specialists

A resident reviewing test results
One of the things that contributes to a great positive energy at The Princess Margaret is the presence and active participation of medical residents and graduate students. They are young, bright, full of ideas and honoured to be working in a place where they have access to scientists, surgeons, and researchers who are changing the face of cancer medicine and treatment.
‘Teaching and learning’ are woven into the day-to-day life at The Princess Margaret for hundreds of students coming here to further their knowledge.
Eitan Prisman was a surgical resident in 2009 who had completed his medical degree and was embarking on a five-year program to specialize in head and neck surgical oncology. “Most of the learning,” he explains, “happens ‘hands-on’ as we study patient charts and are given the opportunity to shadow senior doctors and surgeons." But teaching and learning are scheduled and formalized in many ways:
  • Weekly grand rounds where there is a lecture on new treatment or understanding gained through studies or clinical trials
  • Interdisciplinary Tumor Board meetings where medical, radiation and surgical specialists meet to discuss challenging cases
  • Research Nights where students share and discuss their research studies with peers and mentors
  • Friday morning teaching blocks with advisors
“And, of course, there are frequent examinations thrown in to ensure we are retaining all the information thrown at us.”
Eitan was particularly grateful for a four-month block of time in the program when students could focus on a particular area of research that they wish to pursue. He said this is unique to the program at The Princess Margaret and reflects the Cancer Centre’s commitment and ability to conduct breakthrough research. The large patient population treated at The Princess Margaret allows for new approaches to treatment to be evaluated and compared to the current standard of care.
This ability to focus on an area of research allows many students to author academic papers and begin the publishing aspect of their career.
Eitan is spent his research time investigating how CT (computed tomography) and other imaging technology can be exploited even further to assist oncology surgeons. He and a team of software engineers created a real-time surgical ‘dashboard’ that gives the surgeon multiple interior views of a patient’s head. The team has figured out how to colour code the various interior parts, such as the tumour, optic nerve, spinal column and carotid artery, giving the surgeon a clear map of each individual patient in order to navigate successfully.
Depending on the position of a tumour, a surgeon may need to remove or drill through a bone in order to get to the tumour. This new technology provides the surgeon with a clear view of what is on the other side of the bone enabling him/her to make appropriate decisions on how to proceed.