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Program Testimonial

Testimonial from Ovidiu Cristea, Class of 2007

“I completed my general surgery training at Westchester Medical Center between 2002 and 2007. When deciding where to apply to train, several key elements were important to me:

First, and most importantly, I wanted a program in which I would get a strong hands-on experience in a patient population with diverse pathology, so that once out on my own, I would feel comfortable doing not only basic procedures but more rare and complex ones as well. Implied in this was the desire to be in a center where technology was up-do-date, where surgical simulation was employed, and where critical care was strongly emphasized. Second, I wanted to ensure that I would get a good theoretical and cognitive foundation that would allow me to do well on my board examinations. Third, I wanted to train somewhere where I could work hard yet be treated humanely. Fourth, I wanted a program that would allow me to get into a good fellowship, if I chose to pursue one after finishing training.

I can say that Westchester Medical Center met and exceeded my expectations in all of these areas. Upon completing the program I logged over 1100 cases, many of which were complex and included transplantation, hepatic and biliary resections, pancreatic surgery, bariatric and other advanced laparoscopy (laparoscopic colons and donor nephrectomies), and the treatment of cancers of all types from sarcomas to endocrine tumors. In pediatrics I participated in tracheo-esophageal fistula repairs, diaphragmatic hernia repairs in the NICU, and PDA ligations. The vascular experience was top-notch in both open and endovascular and prepared me for some of the work I am eventually doing. The experience at St. Vincent's hospital solidified a broad base in general surgery with a strong emphasis on laparoscopy - including laparoscopic inguinal and ventral hernias, colon resections, thyroid and adrenal surgery and breast. Since WMC serves a very large catchment area, there is a virtual endless supply of different pathology that one sees. Upon completing the program, I feel comfortable operating on a wide array of conditions and tackling difficult intraoperative dilemmas with confidence. An excellent skills lab affords the opportunity to further sharpen skills.

Because critical care is emphasized in the program almost as much as surgery itself, I developed the ability to take care of very sick surgical and trauma patients. Regardless of whether one will likely use right-ejection fraction (REF) catheters or continuous-cardiac output Swan Ganz catheters in practice, using these on a daily basis while in the ICU teaches you an incredible amount about cardiopulmonary physiology which is something that every surgeon needs to know. The residents learn and co-manage critically-ill trauma, transplant and general surgery patients right alongside the ICU fellows, and there is plenty of work to go around such that resident's experience is unsurpassed by that of the fellows.

The five years of training was not easy - nor should it be if you are to be successful at mastering the many skills demanded of a surgeon in such a short period of time. Furthermore, regardless of where you go, a lot of what you get out of a program is what you put in. For me, I was able to work hard and get my work done, but at the same time, had enough time to study for cases and for the boards, which I passed immediately upon graduation from the program. The repeated Socratic questioning I received from Dr. Savino and others helped me develop my surgical reasoning, and learn to think in such a way that helped me not only for my oral boards, but also for general patient care. And although the work was difficult, I felt appreciated as an individual by my attendings, which is not something universal at other programs.

Upon graduating, I matched in plastic surgery at Indiana University, a program which I recently completed. I have subsequently entered the world of private practice plastic surgery in Indiana and greatly enjoy what I do. Even while in training at IU, the vascular skills I had acquired from Westchester Medical Center helped me with learning microvascular flap and hand surgery. The Westchester ICU experience helped me take care of sick reconstructive plastic surgery and burn patients with ease.

Graduates of the program choose varied paths, and have entered such fields as laparoscopy/bariatric, vascular, pediatric surgery, plastics, cardiothoracic, trauma/ICU and general.

As I look back, I have fond memories of Westchester Medical Center and the excellent training that I got there, and would train there again if I had to do over. Anyone who wants to get a strong foundation in surgery that will then open doors to virtually any desired path, and who is not afraid of working hard, should consider Westchester Medical Center. I am happy to answer any specific questions from any applicant.

Best of luck to everyone!”

Ovidiu Cristea

What is Surgery?

Surgery is the branch of medicine that deals with the diagnosis and treatment of injury, deformity, and disease by manual and instrumental means. Surgery also can be defined as a surgical operation or procedure, especially one involving the removal or replacement of a diseased organ or tissue.