Dr. Kevin An

PGY-5 Cardiac Surgery – NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center – University of St Andrews – Harvard School of Public Health – McMaster University – University of Toronto

Senior ResidentCardiac Surgery NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical CenterUniversity of St AndrewsHarvard School of Public HealthMcMaster UniversityUniversity of Toronto

March 2023

About Me

My name is Kevin An, I am a PGY-5 resident in Cardiac Surgery at the University of Toronto. I am also a research fellow at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center and a Master of Public Health student at Harvard University. I was born and raised in Toronto, Ontario and completed my undergraduate degree at the University of St Andrews in the UK, where I studied medicine. After graduation, I attended medical school at McMaster University.

Why I chose Cardiac Surgery

Cardiac surgery is an exciting, everchanging and technologically driven field. Cardiac surgeons perform open and endovascular surgeries related to the heart, pericardium, great vessels and thoracic aorta. Subspecialties of cardiac surgery can include minimally invasive and robotic cardiac surgery, structural heart disease, aortic and endovascular surgery, cardiothoracic transplantation and mechanical circulatory support, congenital cardiac surgery and critical care.

My interest in cardiac surgery began in the anatomy lab during university, where I enjoyed learning anatomy and cadaveric dissection. In lectures, I enjoyed learning about cardiovascular physiology, which always seemed logical and intuitive to me. In clerkship, I found I enjoyed acute care, and the acuity of cardiac diseases was particularly appealing. I chose cardiac surgery because it combined these interests, was challenging, and provided the ability and opportunity to make a major difference in someone’s life with technical skills that can be acquired and improved over time.

Clinical Life

What kinds of rotations are required in your program?

Cardiac surgery is a six year training program, including one year of academic enrichment. Years 1 and 2 are comprised of training in surgical foundations, and approximately 6-8 months are spent in cardiac surgery, 6 months in thoracic, vascular, general and trauma surgery, 6 months in cardiology and its subspecialties, and 4-6 months in critical care, cardiac anesthesia, emergency medicine and/or medical imaging. Years 3 to 6 are your senior years where the focus is directed towards your surgical training. These years typically comprise 18-21 months of adult cardiac surgery, 6 months of congenital cardiac surgery, 6-9 months of vascular surgery and 3-6 months of thoracic surgery. The enrichment year can be taken anytime during training and can comprise additional clinical or research training. In many programs, the academic enrichment year can be extended to accommodate the completion of a graduate degree.

Which of your personality characteristics are particularly helpful in your field?

I believe perseverance, resilience and adaptability are important in residency. Residents will work in a variety of different teams, settings and situations and will face a variety of different challenges. Having the ability to adapt and remain flexible in these situations and persevere through challenges can be very beneficial in cardiac surgery.
As a cardiac surgeon, thinking on your feet and acting decisively can be another important skill to have. Situations can change quickly in the OR, ICU and ward, and the ability to make quick and accurate decisions can make a major difference for your patients.

What are the best aspects of your residency?

There is no feeling more satisfying than when you are able to successfully perform a new skill in the OR or successfully manage an acute medical issue on the ward or ICU. Seeing a patient recover from a major life-altering event and return to their daily routines along with watching your surgical and medical skills evolve over time is incredible and personally fulfilling.

As a cardiac surgeon, thinking on your feet and acting decisively can be another important skill to have.”

What are the most challenging aspects of your specialty?

Residency can be challenging due to the variety of skill sets needed to be learned in a limited amount of time. Learning good time management skills is important in residency in order to allow you to achieve your goals both inside and outside of residency.

Can you describe the transition from junior to senior resident?

The transition from junior resident to senior resident involves graduated responsibilities in the OR, increased decision making and responsibility regarding the management of the ward/ICU, a greater role in supervising junior learners, and increased contact and communication with attending surgeons. This transition is generally very well supported in our specialty, and residents will commonly be given more advanced responsibilities, even in their junior years to allow them to become accustomed to, and learn from these roles.

Will you be pursuing further training or looking for employment? What resources are available to you for future planning?

In our specialty, residents typically pursue further training in the form of a clinical fellowship in a sub-specialty area of cardiac surgery. This allows them to develop a niche within the specialty, which is important to have as an attending cardiac surgeon.

Non-Clinical Life

What are your academic interests?

I have interests in clinical research and innovation. As a research fellow, I am looking closely at coronary artery disease, sex differences in coronary artery disease and different revascularization strategies. From a methodological perspective, I have gained experience as a research fellow with statistical analysis for large retrospective studies, randomized controlled trials and systematic reviews and meta-analyses. Looking forward, I am exploring concepts surrounding artificial intelligence and machine learning and its role in the cardiovascular field.

What is your work-life balance like, and how do you achieve this?

Outside of work, I enjoy travelling, spending time with friends and family, music, current affairs, playing tennis, hiking, working out, and skiing. With the increased demands on your time during residency, it is important to learn good time management skills and how to prioritize and delegate tasks. Additionally, having a strong support network of friends and family is very helpful during residency.

Disclaimer: These specialty profiles illustrate some aspects of the lives of individual residents/physicians, and convey their personal perspectives on the challenges, opportunities, and rewards of their chosen fields. These views may not be shared by all residents, as there is tremendous diversity in lifestyle, experience, and interest among the residents in each specialty.