Brittany Barber

Student spotlight details

Brittany enrolled on our MSc in Surgical Science and Practice to refine her training and become a more successful academic surgeon.

'Prior to enrolling on the course, I was finishing my third year of a 5-year surgical residency in Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada. I enrolled on the course because I wanted to refine several aspects of my training that would help me to be a more successful academic surgeon. The courses offered by the MSc in Surgical Science and Practice addressed my desire to improve my critical appraisal skills, to gain a familiarity with quality improvement science, and to become a better surgical educator and leader. It also allowed an opportunity to make overseas contacts and learn about a different healthcare system.

'The most challenging aspect of the course was trying to soak up as much information as possible from the leaders of many interesting fields in only a week! Certainly, the didactic teaching we received during the week-long modules was excellent and inspiring. Yet there was always an abundance of learning material available on the learning platform that could be reviewed prior to, during, and after the modules. It was easily accessible and the professors were only an email away. I am even using some of the material now to assist me with my current research.

'The weeks were packed full of useful information on a lot of different topics, but under the umbrella of a theme that is central to academic surgery. The topics were of utility to all the participants, so there was a lot of useful discussion.

'I found the sense of community amongst the small class and mentorship from many of the session leaders to be very rewarding. As well, many of the assignment objectives were to be implemented and assessed within your own surgical department, several of my projects were helpful additions to my résumé. One of my assignments helped me to obtain grant funding for one of my research projects, and several others were presented at the American Head & Neck Society (AHNS) meeting, the Canadian Society of Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery (CSOHNS) meeting, and the International Society for Maxillofacial Rehabilitation (ISMR) meetings.

'I completed my dissertation on a project entitled “Intraoperative brief electrical stimulation for prevention of shoulder dysfunction after oncologic neck dissection: a double-blinded, randomized controlled trial.” The project examined the use of electrical stimulation in regenerating the spinal accessory nerve after injury during neck dissections for head and neck cancer. I used the knowledge I gained during the module entitle “Evidence-Based Medicine in Surgery” to design the trial. I also completed a quality improvement project with my attending surgeons in Edmonton, Canada, that aimed to decrease length of hospital stay and intensive care unit stay in patients undergoing free flap surgery for head and neck cancer by utilizing a rapid awakening protocol following surgery. The quality improvement tactics I learned during the Quality Improvement Science and Systems Analysis (QISSA) helped me to complete and analyse the results. 

'I have finished my surgical residency and am starting a fellowship in Head and Neck Oncology and Microvascular Surgery at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine (MSSM) in New York, NY.

'I will complete my fellowship in Head and Neck Surgical Oncology and Microvascular Reconstruction in June 2018 and am planning to embark on an academic surgical career with a clinical practice of head and neck cancer patients. I plan to continue my research in oral cavity cancer biomarkers, peripheral nerve regeneration, and quality improvement strategies in head and neck cancer care.

'The Masters course is an excellent opportunity to become familiar with multiple essential aspects of an academic surgical career. The prospects for learning, networking, and travelling were numerous, and the experience of joining an elite heritage of scholars was a great privilege.'

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