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Q&A with Daryl Dillman, second-year orthopedic surgery resident

Daryl Dillman, a finalist on Canada's Smartest Person.

A competitive power-lifter, a Canada Games hockey player, and Atlantic Canada’s youngest surgeon: surprisingly, this is all captured in a single person, Daryl Dillman. And just recently, the second-year orthopedic surgery resident battled it out for rights to a new title—Canada’s smartest person.

After appearing on CBC’s newest game show (Canada’s Smartest Person), the Cole Harbour native returns to life in the OR. Daryl shares what competing against Canada’s brightest was like and how he’s improving patient care in Maritime Canada.

What made you decide to go on Canada’s Smartest Person?

I first heard about the show through a commercial. I’ve always enjoyed game shows, so my friends dared me to apply. I’m usually up for a challenge, so I sent in an application.

CBC called me on the phone a couple times and I had a Skype interview where they ran through some challenges. I must have done well because shortly after they told me I had made the cut.

How did your medical training benefit you on the show?

My medical training was a huge benefit on the show. Dealing with stressful situations for long periods of time is what I do every day as a resident. The consequences of messing up were less dire than what I’m used to, and the cameras and bright lights didn’t bug me too much.

The show was only an hour in length, but it took about 12 to film. While everyone else was tired, it was a short day for me.

What made you decide on an orthopedic surgery residency?

There are many things that make me believe orthopedics is right for me. I can’t list them all, but I’ll mention a few.

The first one is the people. Orthopedic surgeons tend to be action-oriented people who work hard and party hard. It makes them pretty fun to work with every day.

I also enjoy is the wide variety of patients I encounter. Anyone can break a bone, so I get to work with people from all walks of life. Young and old, rich and poor—it makes going to work every day interesting.

What kind of patient care are you involved with?

As an orthopedic surgery resident, I perform and assist with surgeries on the musculoskeletal system. From stabilizing fractures to joint replacements to arthroscopy, I get to be involved with a great variety of cases.

Outside of the OR, I look after patients who are admitted to hospital either waiting for their surgery or recovering afterwards. I see patients in clinic who are referred to see an orthopedic surgeon for assessment. I also see patients in the emergency room that have suffered fractures or other injuries. This is when I reduce fractures and apply casts.

In your opinion, what are the challenges of orthopedic surgery in the Maritimes?

While there are many challenges to orthopedic surgery in the Maritimes, we’re blessed with a surgery program that provides great education and patient care.

A huge challenge is resource limitation and allocation. There’s simply not enough money for more operating time and to hire more surgeons. So as population demographics change, waitlists continue to grow longer.

Another issue is the integration of care throughout the Maritimes. While Nova Scotia has an outstanding orthopedic surgery program, the other provinces are not on the same level; an integrated program between the three provinces could benefit all parties through the pooling of resources.

The biggest issue that we face is motor vehicle collisions. I have seen far too many young lives lost or changed forever due to a car accident. A huge risk factor for this is alcohol use.

Are you involved in any research activities?

I’m involved with a number of projects investigating shoulder instability under the supervision of Dr. Ivan Wong, one of our orthopedic surgeons specializing in sports medicine. I’m also working on a master’s in public health through distance education at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

What's next after residency?

After residency, I’ll complete fellowship training in a subspecialty of orthopedic surgery to gain more expertise in a specific area. This will likely take two years, s pending one year each in two different locations. At this point I haven’t decided on which area of orthopedics to subspecialize in, but have interest in trauma and upper extremity. I hope to return to Halifax after this training to work.