A Day in the Life of a Clinician Educator… Deepak Dath

By: Jamiu Busari

Deepak Dath, MD, MEd, FRCPSC

Professor of Surgery

Co-chair of the CanMEDS 2015 Leader Role

CanMEDS Clinician Educator

Vice chair of the Royal College Surgical Foundation Advisory Committee

 What is your clinical background?

Deepak attended medical school at Western and completed a residency in general surgery at McMaster University [1993]. He obtained a Master of Education from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education [1999] followed by a fellowship in surgical education at the Wilson Centre for Research in Education at the University of Toronto [2000] and a clinical fellowship in hepatobiliary and liver transplant surgery at the University of Toronto [2001].

Deepak is a professor of surgery at McMaster University and has spent 10 years practicing laparoscopic hepatobiliary surgery at St Joseph’s Hospital, Hamilton (SJHH), and the last 4 years at the Juravinski Hospital and Cancer Centre (JHCC).

In terms of medical education at McMaster University, Deepak served as the Program Director for the CORE program in surgery from 2002-2009.  He developed a full curriculum for all surgical residents with 7 sub-curricula that included Principles of Surgery topics, clinical lectures, evidence based surgery/critical appraisal, research seminar series, CanMEDS Intrinsic Roles workshops and technical skills/simulation based training.  Deepak also functioned as site director for the general surgery program at SJHH. Since 2009, he has been busy in administrative and educational roles at the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. (See above.)

Deepak is currently running three research initiatives with residents and enjoys doing a lot of clinical teaching.

  1. What percentage of your time is spent in clinical practice, teaching activities, educational research and administrative work?

Deepak states that he devotes about 40% of his time to clinical practice, 10% to teaching, 30% to Royal College activities, 10% to educational research and the remaining 10% to administrative tasks

  1. How do you enjoy your diverse (portfolio) career?

Deepak says he is very happy with the current mix of responsibilities in his clinical as well as his overall professional work. He argues that general surgeons choose their speciality because they value diversity in their practices. Deepak designed his practice to include variety in the complexity of clinical cases. This affords him the chance to work with and teach a wide variety of learners.  This design is possible because of the support of his peers, his clinical chief and his academic chair.

Deepak thinks there are two measures of professional diversity: “diversity at the moment” (all the activities that he is currently involved as a surgeon and teacher), and; “diversity over time” (transitioning from the roles of program and site director in surgery through to the various administrative roles that he currently holds at the Royal College).

  1. Do you have any difficulty in having this diverse work, and if yes, how do you manage it?

Opportunities are always arising for Deepak to take on more educational work that would challenge him and widen his competencies. However this must be balanced with clinical and other responsibilities he says.  “The inevitable ebb and flow in the many tasks that Clinician Educators perform can result in situations where one is faced with multiple coincident peaks.” The more activities you take on, the greater the chances of encountering more of these simultaneous peak moments. Still, Deepak enjoys the variety in his work including the highs and the lows, acknowledging the times when he has to work harder.

Deepak admits that sometimes when the peaks coincide, his family becomes part of the ebbs and flows.  Therefore, he makes serious efforts to create protected time, by engaging collaborators who can share the load. Most of the time these relationships turn out to be symbiotic relationships with their own ebbs and flows.

Three tips:

Asked which 3 tips he would offer junior CEs, Deepak responds with the following:

  1. Follow your heart: doing what you value makes life pleasant during the good times, and is the only way to get through the difficult times.
  2. Thoughtfully construct your environment so that you can work well: surround yourself with the right people—those who will walk by your side as you help others. Set up an infrastructure to make your work easier—integrate work and teaching, education and scholarship, personal and professional life.
  3. Keep focused on what is down the road (alignment): Be mindful of what you are doing right now, how it aligns with why you are doing it, and how you can create new opportunities or consciously deviate from them when necessary.