University of Toronto - General Surgery - Toronto

2020 R-1 Main Residency Match - first iteration
CMG Stream for CMG

Last approved on November 12, 2019

Approximate Quota:


Accreditation status : Accredited

Provincial Criteria

Dr. Savtaj Brar
General Surgery 
University of Toronto 
Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre
2075 Bayview Avenue, Room H3-17, Toronto, Ontario, M4N 3M5
416-480-6100 ext 83736
General Surgery Residency Program, University of Toronto
Division of General Surgery, University of Toronto
Department of Surgery, University of Toronto
Surgeon Scientist Program Website
Surgical Skills Center
University of Toronto Visiting Student Electives
PGME at U of T

Program Contacts

Madeline Ng
Program Coordinator
416-480-6100 ext 83736

Dr. Savtaj Brar
Program Director

Important Information

Note, the application requirements for Canadian Medical Graduates (CMGs) and International Medical Graduates (IMGs) differ. Carefully read the section relevant to your situation prior to submitting your application.

Review all instructions carefully. Applications with INCOMPLETE and/or EXTRANEOUS documents will NOT be reviewed.

Applying competency-based practices to General Surgery Residency Education

To contribute to the success of Canadian physicians and the delivery of high-quality patient care, the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada has embarked upon an initiative to introduce competency-based medical education (CBME) in Canadian postgraduate specialty training and in professional practice in Canada. This initiative, called Competence by Design (CBD), aims to enhance patient care by aligning medical education and lifelong learning with evolving patient needs and empowering learners to more fully engage in their education process.  Residents entering the General Surgery program in July 2020 and beyond will experience competency-based training, including Surgical Foundations.

CBD will use time as a framework and competency as the basis for progression. It is not anticipated that the duration of training will change for trainees. Residency programs will be broken down into stages, and each stage will have a series of milestones based on required competencies. These milestones will create more targeted learning outcomes and involve more frequent, formative assessments within the clinical workplace to ensure residents are developing and receiving feedback on the skills they need.

All programs implementing CBD will continue to undergo the same rigorous accreditation processes as traditional programs. All CBD programs (and traditional programs) will continue to lead to Royal College approved certification. Certification for trainees in both CBD and traditional programs will include the completion of a Royal College examination; however, residents in CBD programs will also be assessed against program milestones throughout their training. Within a CBD program, all milestones (documented within an electronic portfolio) and the Royal College examination must be successfully completed to achieve certification.  

For more information, please contact

General Instructions

Program application language: English

Please note that the language of instruction for this residency program is English. To ensure file reviewers can properly evaluate your application, please ensure all documents submitted are either in English or include an English translation.

Supporting Documentation

Canadian citizenship
CaRMS partners with third-party organizations to verify your citizenship or permanent resident status. If your status is verified by one of these organizations, you will not need to provide citizenship documents in your application. If your citizenship status is not verified, you must provide one of the documents listed below.
Document must be notarized/certified
Submit one of the following documents to verify your Canadian citizenship:
• Canadian Birth Certificate or Act of Birth
• Certificate of Canadian Citizenship
• Confirmation of Permanent Residence in Canada
• Passport page showing Canadian Citizenship
• Canadian Permanent Resident Card (both sides of card)

Must be a Canadian Citizen/Permanent Resident. Proof of valid current citizenship or permanent resident status must be provided by submitting one of the following verifications to CaRMS by the Rank Order List deadline.  Failure to provide valid proof will result in your application being removed.  No other forms of verification are acceptable. 

  1. Notarized/certified photocopy of Birth Certificate issued by an authority in Canada accompanied by photo ID (must be a Canadian government issued photo ID), or
  2. Notarized/certified photocopy of Canadian Passport, or
  3. Notarized/certified photocopy of confirmation of permanent residence accompanied by a photo ID (must be a Canadian government issued photo ID), or
  4. Notarized/certified photocopy of Permanent Resident Card/Canadian Citizen Card – copies of both sides of card must be provided and legible.
Reference documents
Number requested: 4

Four letters of reference must be submitted. Three letters must be from staff physicians, including at least one letter from a General Surgeon. The 4th letter must be from a senior resident (PGY 3-5) in General Surgery or a fellow in a General Surgical sub-specialty.

Additional documents
[Note: Photograph is used as memory aid only]

Medical School Transcript 

Order from your Registrar.

Medical Student Performance Record 

Order from your Dean's office

Personal Letter 

Please answer the following 5 questions in a single document. All answers should be preceded by the associated question, including the question number. Answer all questions in order. Limit your document to no more than 1000 words (excluding questions). A word count must be included at the end of the document; personal letters exceeding the word limit will NOT be reviewed. Personal letters that do not adhere to these standards will not be accepted.

  1. Why do you wish to pursue a career in General Surgery?
  2. What has been your most significant accomplishment?
  3. Name two qualities that you possess which will help you to succeed as a general surgery resident.
  4. What do you perceive as the greatest challenge you will face in General Surgery training at the University of Toronto?
  5. Describe feedback that you have received in the past that has been influential to you.

Other Document   - Relevant General Surgery Experience

Please upload as a separate document a table of all completed and upcoming General Surgery or general surgical subspecialty (e.g. Pediatric Surgery, Thoracic Surgery, Trauma Surgery, Transplant, Surgical Critical Care, etc.) rotations in chronological order. Please use this template, which includes the following column headers:

  • Dates of rotation
  • Location
  • Specialty
  • Rotation type (elective, observership, etc.)
  • Residents and staff who worked with you (for completed rotations)

At the end of the document, please also provide a brief description (<75 words) of the elective requirements/restrictions at your medical school.

Review Process

Applications submitted after file review has opened on November 20, 2019

Supporting documents (excluding letters of reference) that arrive after file review has opened  on  November 20, 2019

Letters of reference that arrive after the unmasking date on November 27, 2019

Information regarding the review process:

The General Surgery Program uses a structured and standardized process to review applications in a manner that ensures an equitable evaluation for all applicants. It is therefore essential that your application fully complies with the requirements as described.

Only those applications that adhere to the above requirements will undergo review. Additional supporting documentation that have not been requested will NOT be reviewed; this includes:

  • Submission of custom CV
  • Submission of list of abstracts or manuscripts
  • Inappropriately formatted personal letters or Relevant General Surgery Experience document
  • Personal letters >1000 words
  • Applications with >4 reference letters or those without a letter from a general surgery senior resident/fellow
  • Submission of USMLE score reports
  • Incomplete applications

Please follow the application guidelines very closely.

Decisions made by the CaRMS Selection Committee are final and are not open to appeal. The General Surgery Program at the University of Toronto does not have a mechanism in place to provide feedback to unsuccessful applicants.



  • February 1, 2020
Dates:                  February 1, 2020

We are only able to conduct interviews on the designated interview date - Saturday, February 1, 2020.

Telephone and video conference interviews cannot be accommodated.

We have limited capacity to change assigned interview times. Therefore, please do not make travel arrangements until you have received your interview notification. We will notify candidates by email whether or not they have been granted an interview during the week of December 16, 2019.



Program will notify all applicants through CaRMS Online and will send email invitations directly to applicants selected for an interview.


Program will notify all applicants through CaRMS Online and will send email invitations directly to applicants selected for an interview.
Each candidate invited for an interview will participate in a multiple mini-interview lasting 50-60 minutes. Each mini-interview team will consist of a faculty surgeon and a resident. A standardized scoring scheme will be applied to the interviews. Additional documents (e.g. abstracts, papers, extra letters) should not be brought to the interview.

In addition to the interviews, formal presentations by the Chair, Program Director and residents will be made on the day of the interviews. Informal tours with residents in the program will also be arranged. Finally, there will be a reception for candidates as well as current residents and faculty in the evening following interviews on Saturday February 1, 2020.

Selection Criteria

Program goals

Residents who graduate from the General Surgery Training Program at the University of Toronto, will be confident and capable clinicians able to excel in the practice of General Surgery in a variety of settings. Clinical excellence is emphasized in training around the delivery of care to patients and this is achieved through a continuous emphasis on providing high quality of care in a safe and learner focused framework. This learning environment supports the development of highly capable surgeons, able to engage in ethical and team based practice.

For the Program's goals and objectives, click here

Selection process goals

Successful applicants are typically those that demonstrate strong leadership potential, a commitment to general surgery, a capacity to learn and succeed in a surgical training enviornment, as well as an ability to work well in a team. 

Applications are reviewed independently by both faculty and residents

Candidates are assigned a composite score comprised of the file and interview scores.  The CaRMS Selection Committee will generate a preliminary rank list on the basis of these scores.

File review process

Review team composition : Applicants with complete applications (i.e. in compliance with the outlined requirements) will be reviewed by teams comprised of both faculty and residents.

Average number of applications received by our program in the last five years : 51 - 200

Average percentage of applicants offered interviews : 26 - 50 %

Evaluation criteria :
File component Criteria
CV We do not evaluate this file component
Electives All aspects (e.g. clinical evaluations, evidence of interest, and the relevant experience document)
Extra-curricular All aspects of the applicant’s extra-curricular activities will be considered
Leadership skills All aspects, including leadership in academic, clinical, and extra-curricular settings
MSPRs All aspects of the MSPR will be considered, including all clinical evaluations
Personal letters All aspects, including adherence to the application instructions
Reference documents All aspects, including adherence to the reference letter requirements
Research/Publications All aspects of the applicant’s research/publication history will be considered
Transcripts All aspects of the applicant’s transcript will be considered
Other file component(s) Although we do not review custom CVs, we do review typed entries in the web-based CaRMS application.

Adherence to the application instructions will be strongly considered.

Elective criteria

We encourage applicants to have completed at least one elective in our discipline.
We do not require applicants to have done onsite electives.

Other information regarding elective requirement:

The CaRMS Selection Committee places significant value on personal contact with the applicant. For this reason, applicants are strongly encouraged to pursue an elective (research or clinical) or complete a core rotation in the Division of General Surgery at the University of Toronto. However, we emphasize that this is not mandatory, and recognize that not all applicants are able to arrange an elective within their schedule. The Program Director's Office is unable to assist in arranging electives.

If a University of Toronto elective can be arranged, electives students are encouraged to attend weekly general surgery resident teaching and to consider meeting with a member of the selection committee during the elective.

Interview process

Interview format :

We do not re-schedule interviews for applicants after we have completed the scheduling process.

Interview evaluation criteria :
Interview components Criteria
Collaboration skills Collaboration will be evaluated as part of the interview process
Collegiality Collegiality will be evaluated as part of the interview process
Communication skills Communication skills will be evaluated as part of the interview process
Health advocacy
Interest in the discipline Interest in General Surgery will be evaluated as part of the interview process
Interest in the program Interest in the Toronto General Surgery program will be evaluated as part of the interview process
Leadership skills Leadership skills will be evaluated as part of the interview process
Professionalism Professionalism skills will be evaluated as part of the interview process
Scholarly activities Scholarship will be evaluated as part of the interview process
Other interview component(s) All components above are considered during the interview.

Information gathered outside of CaRMS application

Specifically, we may consider:

Ranking process

The behavior(s) exhibited below during the interview process may prevent an applicant from being ranked by our program :

Program Highlights

  • Diverse Resident Body
  • Dedicated and Talented Faculty
  • Highly Engaged Program Leadership
  • Unsurpassed Breadth and Depth of Clinical Learning Opportunities 
  • Unrivaled Surgeon-Scientist Training Program
  • Surgical Skills Center at Mount Sinai Hospital and St Michael's Hospital
  • General Surgery, Surgical Oncology and MIS Update Courses 
  • Regular Social Events
For more details, click here


" It is only after I transitioned to becoming a staff surgeon that I realized everything that the University of Toronto residency program did for me. The Surgeon Scientist Training Program allowed me the time and resources to learn about research and to complete my PhD, an opportunity almost unheard of across North America. My outstanding teachers patiently guided me as my clinical and operative skills developed, starting as a nervous PGY1 doing my first appendectomy to a chief resident tackling a complicated trauma case. Most importantly, throughout my residency, I worked in an environment surrounded by creative, energetic, innovative people from all sorts of backgrounds and specialties. This environment was a key motivator during a long residency, and essential to my success."

- Barbara Haas (2013 Graduate), Staff surgeon in Trauma, Acute Care Surgery & Critical Care at Sunnybrook Hospital 


" As you will all learn very soon - residency is about more than just the work - it is about the experience. That is what you will remember for life. We pride ourselves on this experience, and the resident body is truly the heart and soul of our program. An emphasis on teamwork, communication and balanced life are exemplified by weekly teaching sessions with residents from all 5 years, and numerous gatherings, both organized and impromptu, throughout the year. The value of bringing this balanced approach to our patients cannot be over-emphasized, and is a key factor in determining the next class of residents."

- Steven MacLellan (2012 Graduate), Staff surgeon in Minimally Invasive Surgery at Humber River Hospital


Program Curriculum

This residency program is for 5 years.

Program length of training does not exceed the Royal College or College of Family Physicians of Canada standard.


PGY 1 and 2

Rotations in the PGY 1 and 2 years are designed to meet the objectives of core general surgery training as articulated by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. The broad experience prepares trainees for the MCCQE II and Surgical Foundations Examinations as well as develops trainees' cognitive and technical skills in General Surgery.

 Specific Rotations Completed in the PGY-1 year include:

  • General Surgery (6 months - 2 x 3 month rotations)
  • Pediatric General Surgery (2 months)
  • Trauma Surgery (1 month)
  • Thoracic Surgery (1 month)
  • Transplant Surgery (1 month)
  • Emergency Medicine (1 month)

Specific Rotations Completed in the PGY-2 year include:

  • General Surgery (4 months - 2 x 2 month rotations)
  • Vascular Surgery (1 month)
  • Critical Care (3 months)
  • Endoscopy (2 months)
  • Surgical Selective (2 months)


This year comprises:

  • 10 months of General Surgery
    • 4 months community surgery
    • 4 months acute care surgery / General Surgery (2 x 2 month rotations)
    • 2 months breast surgery 
  • 2 months of elective time (clinical or research)
    • Assigned in consultation with the Program Director in order to ensure that the elective experiences are aligned with the resident's needs and long-term objectives

PGY 4 and 5

During PGY 4 and 5, residents on a General Surgery rotation function at the senior resident level with appropriate autonomy and responsibility.

Rotations at the PGY 4 and 5 level include:

  • 16 months of General Surgery (4 X 4 month rotations)
    • At least one four-month rotation based in each of a
      • Trauma Centre
      • Hospital with Surgical Oncology
      • Community Hospital
      • Additional rotation in General Surgery - assigned in consultation with the Program Director 
  • 4 months of elective time
    • Assigned in consultation with the Program Director in order to ensure that the elective experiences are aligned with the resident's needs and long-term objectives.
  • 4 month "Preparation for Practice" rotation  
    • This rotation comprises the last 4-months of residency.
    • The resident will be free from on-call responsibilities until the Royal College examinations at which time on-call responsibilities resume.
    • Specific components include but are not limited to
      • Ambulatory and operative breast surgery
      • 4 half-day clinics per week
      • Up to 1-day of endoscopy per week
      • Practice oral examinations (2 per week)
      • Protected study time

Surgeon Scientist Training Program

Residents accepted into the program have the opportunity to apply for the Surgeon Scientist Training Program (SSTP) following their PGY-2 or PGY-3 year. Acceptance to the SSTP is contingent on at least above average standing in the PGY 1 and 2 year and competition year-to-year varies. Residents who enter the SSTP must enroll in at least a two-year thesis based graduate program. Residents have a wide choice of graduate programs to consider including Basic Science, Clinical Epidemiology, Health Services Research, and Research in Surgical Education.

Residents return to senior clinical training after completing their Master's or PhD degree. The Surgeon Scientist Training Program satisfies the requirements of the Royal College Clinician Investigator Program. Further details on the Surgeon Scientist Training Program can be found at the SSTP website.


Research Expectations

Resident research experience is mandatory. All trainees are expected to complete and present at least one research project. Elective blocks may be used for research experience.


Program Wide Teaching

In addition to a rich offering of site-specific teaching there are a large number of centrally organized lectures and seminars.

  • PGY1 and 2
    • Surgical Foundations Lecture Series
    • Surgical Skills Training
    • Fundamentals of Laparoscopic Surgery (FLS) course
    • 3D Anatomy Course
    • ATLS
    • PGCorEd curriculum: web based core competency modules focused on non-clinical roles for PGY 1 and 2s.
  • PGY3-5
    • Weekly teaching
    • Advanced laparoscopy and operative trauma training (ATOM) courses for PGY 3-4
    • Exam preparation for PGY 5
  • Annual oral exams for PGY-2 through PGY-5
  • Annual Canadian Association of General Surgeons written exam for residents at all levels


Training Sites

Core Training Sites

  • 5 academic adult training sites:
    • Mount Sinai Hospital: 
      • General surgery, surgical oncology, colorectal surgery
    • University Health Network - Toronto General:
      • General surgery, hepatobiliary surgery (HPB), transplant surgery, head and neck surgery
    • University Health Network - Toronto Western:
      • General surgery, colorectal surgery, minimally invasive surgery (MIS), bariatric surgery
    • St Michael's Hospital:
      • General surgery, trauma, colorectal surgery, MIS, surgical oncology, bariatric surgery
    • Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre
      • General surgery, trauma, HPB, surgical oncology
  • 1 Academic pediatric training site:
    • The Hospital for Sick Children
  • 2 Community training sites:
    • St Joseph's Health Care Centre:
      • General surgery, head and neck surgery, thoracic surgery, MIS, HPB
    • Michael Garron Hospital
      • General surgery, MIS, colorectal, thoracic surgery, bariatric surgery

Exposure to both community and academic surgery is built into program structure and tailored to meet residents' aspirations and career objectives.


Non-core Training Sites

  • North York General Hospital
  • Humber River Regional Hospital 
  • Women's College Hospital
  • Mackenzie Health (Richmond Hill)
  • Trillium Health Partners (Mississauga)
  • The Scarborough Hospital
  • William Osler Health Centre (Brampton)
  • Training sites available via the Rural Ontario Medical Program


Additional Information

  • This program performs ongoing evaluation of our selection process; as such scores generated may be utilized for internal quality assurance purposes, as well as research and dissemination of new knowledge. All scientific presentations publications will be free of identifying information.  Candidates who do not wish their material or scores to be used for this purpose should state such in writing to the program administrator within 60-days following the match day.