This past year, I spent my time working in the department of Neurosurgery at the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre. I worked in close collaboration with Dr. Victor Yang (EngSci 9T7), a staff neurosurgeon at Sunnybrook and an alumnus of the Engineering Science program. Under his guidance, I helped test and develop a surgical navigation device for use in spinal and neurosurgical procedures. While the opportunity to work on a revolutionary medical device is amazing in its own right, the experience of being a part of over 50 surgical procedures is life changing.
A typical day at Sunnybrook was nothing short of challenging. It started off with a 6-8 hour surgical procedure beginning sharp at 7:45 AM. My time in the operating room was spent juggling between assisting the staff with our prototype surgical navigation and working on my computer, designing new tools and debugging code written at 2 AM the previous night. Ultimately, for both Dr. Yang and I, the real reward was looking at the post-operative scan and confirming that the pedicle screw was in a perfect location or that most of the brain tumour had been resected. It is here, when you take a step back and realize how the theory learned in the foundation years of EngSci really helps in changing the world for the better – at least for that one patient.
Outside the operating room, I spent my time machining new tools for use with the navigation system or doing bench-top experiments in preparation for the next conference. I learned a lot over the past 12 months – from my ever-increasing knowledge of human anatomy to mastering my cooking skills. Overall, working in a fast paced environment like an operating room has its challenges, but in the end, it’s all worth it.