Neurological Surgery in Winnipeg
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Outline of Residency Training

Program Director

Patrick McDonald MD, MHSc, FRCSC
Associate Professor and Residency Program Director
Section of Neurosurgery
Department of Surgery
University of Manitoba
GB1 - 820 Sherbrook Street
Winnipeg MB R3A 1R9
Telephone (204) 787-7265, Fax (204) 787-3851

Program Contact

Karla Patterson
Program Administrator, Post-graduate Training Program
Section of Neurosurgery
University of Manitoba
Telephone (204) 787-7265, Fax (204) 787-3851


The neurosurgical unit of the Health Sciences Centre and Children's Hospital represent the only referral centres for the province of Manitoba, about 1.2 million people. This single site for all neurosurgery makes it possible to develop uniform protocols for the treatment and long term follow-up of patients with various neurosurgical disorders. The Health Sciences Centre has modern radiologic diagnostic equipment including MR scanning, CT scanning and angiographic units. There are four full-time neuroradiologists and two full-time neuropathologists. A very close link occurs with the Section of Neurology and there is a strong neurologic presence and teaching program in both the adult and the Children's Hospital. There is a strong core of neuroscience teaching and neuroscience research at the University of Manitoba Medical School, the Health Sciences Research Foundation and the St. Boniface General Hospital Research Foundation.

The Health Sciences Centre is the home of Canada's first Gamma Knife Unit. This has greatly increased our ability to treat some metastatic tumors, vascular malformations, etc. It is a significant attraction for clinical research. All of the university offices and clinics are side by side at the Health Sciences Centre making access to residents and staff very easy. The academic days are held at the same site.

Curriculum - PGY 1 to 6

The PGY-1 and 2 years are designed to fulfil the requirements of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada for core training requirements. The basic core rotations are for twelve months. This consists of two months of general surgery, three months of intensive care, two months of plastic surgery, one month of general medicine, and one month of specialty medicine. The three-month neurology rotation takes place in PGY-2. Considerable elective time is then made available for further core subjects depending on the candidate's field of interest. Clinical neurosurgery rotations will occur in PGY-2.

The formal thirty-six months of neurosurgical training utilize the principle of incremental graded responsibility. Residents attend clinics throughout their clinical years. By the completion of residency, the resident will be proficient in the surgical and non-surgical management of all general types of neurosurgical illnesses in both adults and children. The six staff surgeons provide special expertise in the areas of complex spinal surgery, skull base surgery including transsphenoidal surgery, epilepsy surgery and functional neurosurgery. During the thirty-six months of clinical years, a three-month rotation in neuroradiology and a three month rotation in neuropathology will occur. A one month rotation is also carried out in neuroanesthesia.

Resident training is evaluated once every two months during the clinical neurosurgery years. Beginning in PGY-3, residents have in-house written exams twice a year and oral exams twice a year. In the final year of training, the numbers of these exams increase. The residents will take the Principles of Surgery exam at the end of PGY-2 as well as the LMCC exam part 2. At present, the written multiple choice American Board of Neurological Surgery exam is used and taken by all residents from PGY-3 to PGY-6.


A twelve month period for research, either clinical or basic is provided. Residents are encouraged early in their training to be thinking of the direction that this year will take and are assisted by staff in this endeavor. This research year does not necessarily have to be taken at the University of Manitoba.

Special research expertise is present in Manitoba in the fields of basic spinal cord research and magnetic resonance imaging research. The MRI laboratory of the National Research Council is in Winnipeg with strong ties to the Section of Neurosurgery. Clinical research activities are undertaken by all members of staff, and residents are encouraged to participate.


The main teaching facilities including the resident library of the Section are at the Health Sciences Centre where the ongoing formal rounds are held on a weekly or bi-weekly basis in neuroradiology and neuropathology. Friday morning is a dedicated half-day of resident teaching and residents are excused from clinical activities at that time. During this time frame, combined rounds are held with the section of neurology on a weekly basis. The neurosurgical journal club occurs on a monthly basis and an ongoing weekly review of all neurosurgical topics is carried out as well.

Selection Criteria

  • A mature understanding of the nature of clinical neurosurgical practice and the length and difficulty of neurosurgical training.
  • Scholarly achievement prior to and entering medicine with emphasis on the neurosciences.
  • Scope of achievement in extracurricular activities.
  • A strong sense of long term commitment.


A short list of candidates is prepared by the program director and invitation to interview sent to these candidates. The individual interviews are conducted by at least three staff and one resident and will last about one and one-half hours. Applicants will have ample opportunity to see the facilities. Video conferencing interviews are not utilized. The interview dates are nationally coordinated.

Personal Letter

The letter should state why the applicant is applying to neurosurgery, what are his/her strong points, and professional/non-professional goals in life.

Reference Letters

Three letters of reference are required. They should be from staff mentors who have personal knowledge of the applicant. Letters from residents would be in addition to the other three references. Due date to be announced.

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