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Education Overview

A career in Obstetrics and Gynecology can be extremely rewarding. It is a field of medicine with great diversity ranging from pregnancy care, investigation and treatment of infertility, medical investigation of endocrine disorders, surgical management of pelvic diseases and cancer, diagnostic imaging in obstetrics and gynecology, prenatal diagnosis of genetic and other disorders of development, complex and complicated pregnancies and, not the least, the miracle of healthy birth.

The specialty’s mix of both medical investigative and surgical care is unlike most other specialities. It also offers unique opportunities and flexibility for a wide range of interests and skills. The opportunity to develop a career tailored to these interests is available to all.

There are also the special rewards derived from the close and continuing relationship often developed between the obstetrician/gynecologist and her or his patient.

  • General Obstetrics and Gynecology

    Most graduates of residency programs in obstetrics and gynecology will engage in the general practice of the specialty. This is a mix of pregnancy care, both high and low risk, and the care of pelvic and endocrine disorders affecting women of all ages. Some obstetricians practice in major academic centers and many in small to medium size communities. They treat a wide variety of menstrual disorders, infections, pelvic pathology (fibroids, ovarian cysts, menorrhagia, prolapse, urinary dysfunction, cervical cancer), pregnancies complicated with hypertension, bleeding growth disorders, multiple pregnancies, and women enjoying healthy, normal pregnancies.
  • Subspecialties

    Most graduates of residency programs in obstetrics and gynecology will engage in the general practice of the specialty. This is a mix of pregnancy care, both high and low risk, and the care of pelvic and endocrine disorders affecting women of all ages. Some obstetricians practice in major academic centers and many in small to medium size communities. They treat a wide variety of menstrual disorders, infections, pelvic pathology (fibroids, ovarian cysts, menorrhagia, prolapse, urinary dysfunction, cervical cancer), pregnancies complicated with hypertension, bleeding growth disorders, multiple pregnancies, and women enjoying healthy, normal pregnancies.
  • Residency Training

    Residency training in Canada occurs within university postgraduate education programs and under the rules of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. The training, as it is currently structured, takes five years after graduation from medical school. Details of our own residency program can be found on our the McMaster Postgraduate Education website and general training requirements from the Royal College website. In our own program the focus is on educational achievement not service and therefore we have an excellent reputation for supporting our residents in academic half days, protected research time and rights guaranteed by the PAIRO contract. This program has shown flexibility with residents taking leaves and with unique working requirements.

    The residency program offers graduated responsibility with advancing degrees of knowledge and skills during the course of training.

  • Practice

    Upon completion of training there are a wide range of practice opportunities in Ontario and in the rest of Canada. There is currently a shortage of obstetrician/gynecologists across the country and this is likely to increase in the coming years. This offers the graduating obstetrician/gynecologist a wide range of choices in practice setting.

    In community practice, most obstetrician/gynecologists work in collaboration with colleagues in on-call groups providing coverage during absences, leaves, weekends and nights. Some specialists choose to work more directly together in closer partnerships sharing practices and negotiating with each other protected time for family involvement and other professional goals. Incomes are generally good in most provinces and more than sufficient to support a comfortable lifestyle.

  • Academic Opportunities

    There are a range of ways of remaining involved in academic medicine once you are in practice. Some will join academic departments of obstetrics and gynecology as full-time members of faculty with administrative, teaching and research responsibilities. Many others will practice in the community with clinical professorial appointments with the medical school and have the opportunity to teach residents and medical students both in the hospital and in their practices. Obstetricians working in non-university communities can often retain links with a university in offering elective opportunities to residents and other students. These allow trainees to experience the “real world” away from an academic center and often away from competition with other learners.
  • Specialty and Social Involvement

    One of the special characteristics of obstetrics and gynecology is the extent to which social issues and social involvement are both important and available. Obstetrical and gynecological problems often occur in a social context with complex issues of sexuality, violence, marital dysfunction, ethical, community and social issues. These are both challenging and interesting. Many obstetrician/gynecologists choose to become involved in community, in hospital committees, volunteer agencies and occasionally in local or even provincial politics. There are also opportunities to become involved more extensively in the profession through local medical societies and the national organization representing obstetricians and gynecologists, the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada. This Society has many committees requiring effort and involvement and provides continuing education and sets practice standards for obstetricians and gynecologists across the country. Participation can be very rewarding. Involvement with the national society also offers the opportunity to meet old friends from residency training, who work in other communities, provinces and countries. The obstetrical and gynecological community in Canada is relatively small and therefore it is relatively easy to maintain relationships over the years.

    Some have gone even further to become involved in international health. A number of our faculty and some our residents at McMaster are involved with important maternal and child heath projects in Haiti, Uganda and Yemen. Maternal mortality is a huge issue for those living in third world countries.

  • Changing Your Mind

    As with the choice of any specialty, during the course of training, you may find that you have chosen the wrong career. Given the diversity of rotations in the early parts of obstetrical and gynecological training there is often an opportunity to have credit for current training and arrange transfer to another program. We have experienced and facilitated exchange in both directions. Candidates come from or depart to other specialty programs such as Radiology, Paediatrics, Family Medicine, Surgery and Psychiatry. Under most circumstances, the specialty programs will work together for the best interests of the resident and the best ultimate choice of career, within the rules of the Royal College.

    Choosing obstetrics and gynecology may be the best decision you have ever made. It is a wonderful career offering many opportunities and great diversity. It is challenging and rewarding at the same time. There is a mixture of intellectual challenge, surgical satisfaction, sorrow and joy in this specialty that is very unique.

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