Dalhousie University - Neurosurgery - Halifax

2023 R-1 Main Residency Match - first iteration
CMG Stream for CMG

Last approved on November 10, 2022

Summary of changes

Approximate Quota:


Accreditation status : Accredited

Provincial Criteria

Dr. Gwynedd Pickett
Division of Neurosurgery 
QE II Health Science Centre  
RM 3006, 1796 Summer Street
Halifax, NS , Nova Scotia, B3H 3A7
Dalhousie Neurosurgery Residency Training Program
Dalhousie Neurosurgery Instagram

Program Contacts

Dr. Gwynedd Pickett
Program Director

Monique Brown
Residency Training Program Administrator

Important Information

Our program values the importance of equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) as a goal in the selection process. 

To help inform and advance EDI in our selection process we are pleased to offer the option to submit the voluntary CaRMS Self Identification Questionnaire as part of an approved pilot offered in conjunction with CaRMS.  

Please see 'Supporting documents' and 'Selection criteria' sections below for further information. 

To obtain a postgraduate training license after the conclusion of the match, Canadian Medical Graduates (CMG's) must have registered and challenged the Medical Council of Canada Qualifying Exam Part 1 (MCCQE 1) by July 1, 2023. Those unsuccessful in the exam are subject to the decision of the regulatory authority regarding licensure.

General Instructions

Program application language: English

Supporting Documentation / Information

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.
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)


You must be a Canadian citizen or permanent resident at the time of application.

Reference documents
Number requested: 3

Three letters of reference are required. Although we would accept a reference from a senior resident, we would prefer references from medical teachers, and ideally at least one from a neurosurgeon.

Additional documents
Medical School Transcript 

Your medical school transcript can be submitted through one of the methods below:

  1. Obtain your medical transcript from your school and upload it directly to your CaRMS Online account. Follow your school’s policy regarding accessing or requesting your transcript;
  2. Ask your medical school to upload your medical transcript through their CaRMS Undergraduate Portal account; or
  3. International (IMGs) and United States (USMGs) medical graduates can transfer their transcript from their account.

Medical Student Performance Record 

For current year Canadian medical graduates (CMGs), there is no action required from you. Your medical school will automatically submit your MSPR to CaRMS on your behalf for you to assign.
If your MSPR is in a language other than the program language of English or French, you are required to have the document translated.

Personal Letter 
Word count
Minimum : None
Maximum : 500

Brief (no more than 500 words) personal letter required summarizing reasons for choice of specialty and any special qualifications.

Optional - will be reviewed
Self-identification questionnaire 

We invite candidates who have completed the voluntary CaRMS Self Identification questionnaire as part of their application to submit their responses to our program. This is a voluntary option for anyone who wishes to confidentially share their responses with us. All information received will be maintained as part of the application, which is handled with complete confidentiality. Any responses received will be used only to support our programs and Dalhousie’s equity, diversity, and inclusion goals.  Responses received will not be used by the program for any purpose with the exception of this year’s first iteration match.

Candidates are not required to submit the CaRMS Self Identification questionnaire, but for those that do feel comfortable doing so the information received would only be used to advantage those who would contribute to the diversity of our community.  Several  Dalhousie University programs, including our program, are using this questionnaire this year with the support of the Dalhousie University Faculty of Medicine and of CaRMS.

Complete the form within your CaRMS Online account and assign it as part of your application package.

Review Process

Applications submitted after file review has opened on January 10, 2023

Supporting documents (excluding letters of reference) that arrive after file review has opened  on  January 10, 2023

Letters of reference that arrive after the unmasking date on January 10, 2023

All faculty members are invited to review the applications and make recommendations. Feedback from a minimum of two in addition to the Program Director is required. Reviewers look at a file in its entirety. 



  • February 17, 2023
The interview dates are nationally coordinated. Interviews at Dalhousie University will take place on Friday, February 17, 2023.

Applications will be reviewed and a short-list of candidates for interviews will be created. All candidates on the short-list will be notified directly by the Program Administrator. Short-listed candidates can expect to hear from the PA no later than the end of January.

Program will notify all applicants through CaRMS Online and will send email invitations directly to applicants selected for an interview.
The process consists of a series of personal interviews by neurosurgical faculty as well as two residents in the program to assess scholarly abilities, suitability for the specialty and personal skills. The candidates' questions regarding the program will be answered. We also offer candidates a virtual tour of our facilities and a social time with the residents (both optional.)  

Selection Criteria

Individuals are selected based on a demonstrated strong interest in neurosurgery and the neurosciences, an understanding of the specialty and the training required, personal skills and ability to work well with an interprofessional team. We recognize that due to COVID-19, many applicants have been unable to pursue desired elective experiences. However, we believe that at least one elective or other clinical experience in neurosurgery is essential, to ensure that candidates are aware of the scope and demands of neurosurgical training. 

It is preferred that at least one of the candidate's references be from a neurosurgeon and should include a description of interest and proficiency in the specialty, a description of interpersonal skills and a description of work habits.

Program goals

The primary objective of the Dalhousie Neurosurgery residency program is the development of skilled neurosurgeons who can practice anywhere in the world. Residents are exposed to a broad range of clinical cases, with graduated levels of responsibility in patient care as training progresses. The majority of cases are carried out with significant resident involvement, and at the senior resident level, independent clinical and operative decision-making is promoted. We expect our graduating residents to achieve or excel in all CanMEDS competencies, including professional, communication and health advocacy skills. 

Involvement in research is encouraged, at whatever level is most suitable to the individual resident's career goals and interests. We are committed to developing a multidisciplinary approach to research involving clinicians and basic scientists. Residents have the opportunity to pursue the Clinician Investigator Program, providing structured research training that enables them to become clinician scientists upon completion of their residency. Opportunities for exposure to community neurosurgery in New Brunswick or Newfoundland provide residents with a wide variety of neurosurgical problems and training experiences.

We are proud to offer a highly collegial and respectful training environment. Our program emphasizes a close relationship between the staff and residents. Throughout their training, residents will have the opportunity to train with faculty who have sub-specialized in pediatric neurosurgery, functional neurosurgery, epilepsy surgery, cerebrovascular (open and endovascular), peripheral nerve, skull base, and spine surgery.

Selection process goals

Successful candidates will have a good academic record with proficiency in subjects related to the specialty. They will demonstrate a passion for neurosurgery, responsibility and honesty, and the ability to perform well in stressful situations and remain calm under pressure. Initiative and insight, judgment and problem-solving abilities, maturity and empathy are highly valued.  Strong communication skills and teamwork are essential. 

Evidence of involvement in research is valued. An extensive publication record is not required, but we recognize the persistence and organization required to see a project through to completion and peer-reviewed publication. 

Dalhousie is committed to fostering a collegial culture grounded in diversity and inclusiveness. The university encourages applications from Indigenous persons, persons with a disability, racialized persons, women, persons of a minority sexual orientation and/or gender identity, and all candidates who would contribute to the diversity of our community.  

Candidates are not required to submit the CaRMS Self Identification questionnaire, but for those that do feel comfortable doing so, the information received would only be used to advantage those who would contribute to the diversity of our community. 

Any self-identification questionnaires received will be reviewed as part of our file review process and used as an aid for file reviewers in selecting a diverse group of candidates for interviews. Information received may also be used by the program to adjust final rankings, at the discretion of the selection committee, to address issues of program priority and diversity. 

File review process

Review team composition : All faculty members are invited to review the applications and make recommendations. Feedback from a minimum of two in addition to the Program Director is required.

Average number of applications received by our program in the last five years : 0 - 50

Average percentage of applicants offered interviews : 76 - 100 %

Evaluation criteria :
File component Criteria
CV Education, work history, publications, achievements/awards, volunteer experience.
Electives Sufficient exposure to neurosurgery to ensure an educated choice. Variety is encouraged.
Examinations Success at required examinations. Overall mark and standing.
Extra-curricular Interests outside of medicine. Varied life experiences.
Leadership skills Extent of leadership experience, and any evidence of outcomes/skill.
MSPRs Has fulfilled/passed all course requirements. Comments on performance.
Personal letters Content, sense of the applicant as an individual, writing skills, attention to detail.
Reference documents Attestations of interest and proficiency in specialty, work habits, personal skills, examples.
Research/Publications Area(s) of research, number of presentation and publications, authorship.
Transcripts Academic background and success.
Other file component(s) Applicants from diverse backgrounds and communities are encouraged. We recognize that, for instance, some may have had to work extensively during university to fund their education, leaving less time for volunteering, and may fear this will disadvantage them; others may be stressed about writing personal statements if English is not their first language. Please highlight for us any particular features of your application that you wish to be taken into account.

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.

We recognize that due to COVID-19, elective opportunities may have been cancelled or not possible to schedule. This will be taken into account when making decisions. 

Interview process

Interview format :

We may accommodate requests to re-schedule interviews for applicants due to weather, technology failure, or unforeseen circumstances.

Interview evaluation criteria :
Interview components Criteria
Collaboration skills Teamwork ability, work ethic, conflict management.
Collegiality Mutual respect, constructive engagement.
Communication skills Written (personal statement) and oral (interviews, conversation.)
Health advocacy Approach to ethical challenges. Ability to triage. Understanding of determinants of health of neurosurgical patients.
Interest in the discipline Insight into neurosurgery: aspects of career, challenges, areas of interest. Exposure to discipline.
Interest in the program Knowledge of Dalhousie program.
Leadership skills Understanding characteristics of a good leader; leadership style; experience, lessons learned.
Professionalism Respect and courtesy. Dress and deportment. Organization.
Scholarly activities Initiative. Research and teaching experience. Publication record. Awards.
Other interview component(s) Suitability for neurosurgery: ability to manage stress, balance in life; work ethic and responsibility.
Trainability: ability to prioritize work and remain calm under pressure; self-insight; achievements.

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

Quick Facts

The ratio of residents to faculty in the Neurosurgery Residency Training Program at Dalhousie University is 1 resident to 1 staff. The team is supported by two nurse practitioners, a brain tumour nurse navigator, and several research coordinators.

All Adult Neurosurgery is centered at the QEII Health Sciences Centre. There are 29 in-patient neurosurgery ward beds, as well as a 6 bed Intermediate Care Unit, 4 bed epilepsy monitoring unit, and a 12-bed surgical intensive care unit. The Division of Neurosurgery has approximately 1400 major operative cases per year. Pediatric Neurosurgery is centered at the IWK Health Centre. Neurosurgery clinic facilities, dedicated operating room, ward and ICU facilities provide the infrastructure for the approximately 125 operative pediatric cases per year.

Neurosurgery residents at Dalhousie University will complete a three month rotation in another neurosurgical unit in Atlantic Canada, either in Saint John, Moncton or St. John's. This typically occurs during the PGY3 or PGY5 year. Opportunities exist for other interprovincial and international electives, in consultation with the Program Director.

Training (General)

The training is based in the Halifax area. The neurosurgical unit is centered at the Halifax Infirmary site and is equipped with state of the art neurosurgical systems, which includes neuronavigation, neuroendoscopy, computerized stereotaxy, robotic neurosurgery, an O-arm and intraoperative MRI. There is also an active interventional endovascular program. The centre treats a high volume of general and specialized neurosurgical cases and services a busy Emergency Room Department, which receives patients by land and air transportation from throughout the region.

Members of the staff are subspecialized in pediatric surgery, functional neurosurgery, epilepsy surgery, complex spine surgery, cerebrovascular and endovascular neurosurgery, stereotactic radiosurgery, skull base surgery, neuro-oncology and peripheral nerve surgery.

Living in Halifax

Halifax is a vibrant, friendly, ocean-front city steeped in culture and history. It has a thriving arts, music and entertainment scene, and a great variety of restaurants located in the walkable downtown. Nature is nearby, with hiking trails and public parks, fresh and saltwater beaches, canoeing or sailing opportunities all within the city or a very short drive away. Sports teams, theatre, a symphony orchestra and art galleries provide a wonderful variety of leisure activities for a wide variety of interests. While a relatively small city, it is home to several major universities and a lot of young professionals and small businesses.

Program Curriculum

This residency program is for 6 years.

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


The neurosurgical program at Dalhousie University is a program of progressive responsibility with an objective of developing graduates who have a strong clinical and research experience.

Incoming residents will be trained in the new Competence By Design (CBD) model introduced by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, which began for Neurosurgery in July 2019. Most residents will achieve these competencies in largely the same time frame and experiences as the "grandfathered" residents who continue to complete their training under the old model. Some changes have been made, however, as we gain experience with CBD and feedback from our residents and other programs across the country. There is now greater exposure to neurosurgery in the Foundation years (PGY1-2), and ongoing work to improve the educational value of off-service rotations. The Surgical Foundations program is incorporated into these Foundation years as well. The curriculum is designed to incorporate all CanMEDS roles and provide full training in adult and pediatric neurosurgery, as well as training in related disciplines including neurology, critical care, neuroradiology, neuropathology, and clinical or basic science research, that complement learning and are necessary components of neurosurgical practice. The timing of rotation blocks in Core years can be flexible depending on the individual resident's progress, learning needs, and life situation. 

The Dalhousie program emphasizes a close relationship between the faculty and residents which is facilitated by the centralization of the neurosurgical services at one neurosurgical unit in Nova Scotia. Residents are exposed to a large number and variety of neurosurgical cases and are encouraged during training to pursue their clinical and basic research interests. The neurosurgical program is closely associated with other clinical neurosciences services, as well as with the sizeable neuroscience research community at Dalhousie University, including the Brain Repair Centre. 


PGY-1 and 2

The PGY-1 year consists of thirteen blocks, six of which are on the Neurosurgical Service. Other rotations provide the clinical background for the Surgical Foundations program and other valuable learning experiences, including Emergency Medicine, Anesthesia, Vascular Surgery, Plastic Surgery, and Otolaryngology. Wednesday mornings are reserved for a didactic Surgical Foundations program. The year begins with the national neurosurgery "rookie camp," as well as Surgical Foundations "boot camp" and ATLS training.

In PGY-2, 7 blocks are spent on Neurosurgery. Exposure to Critical Care (2 blocks), Orthopedic Surgery (1 block), Neurology (1 block) and Neuroradiology (2 blocks) completes this year.

PGY-3 to 6 (Core of Discipline)

The core years of neurosurgical training (PGY 3 to 6) are naturally spent largely on the neurosurgical service. This period will include a 3 block rotation in community neurosurgery at one of the affiliated units in Atlantic Canada (Saint John and Moncton, NB; St. John's, NL.) It also includes at least 3 blocks in neuropathology, which residents often choose to schedule in the period before sitting the written component of the Royal College exam. One year is available for academic enrichment in the form of research or electives. Residents wishing to pursue graduate studies during training (MSc, MPH, PhD) may extend their training and are encouraged to consider the Clinician Investigator Program. The timing of off-service experience can be flexible. 

During this time, residents may be sponsored to attend neurosurgical courses and meetings such as the Lougheed Microsurgical Course, the Ottawa Review Course, the Canadian Neurological Sciences Federation annual Congress, the Canadian Spine Society meeting, the American Association of Neurological Surgeons meeting or the Congress of Neurological Surgeons meeting. 


PGY-6 (Transition to Practice)


In the final months of training, residents will function with increasing independence: serving as Chief Resident, organizing operative lists and a resident clinic, enabling them to complete the requirements of the Transition to Practice stage of Competence By Design and preparing them well to graduate to either independent practice or a subspecialty fellowship. 


The Dalhousie University Neurosurgery Program is committed to research. Ample opportunities are available for trainees to pursue research interests, both in the clinical and basic sciences. Residents may use the academic enrichment year for research and/or clinical elective rotations according to the interests of each particular resident. Individuals who want to pursue postgraduate degrees at the Master's and PhD levels are fully supported by the program. Dalhouise University also has a Clinician Investigators Program. We strongly believe that research ultimately translates into better patient care.

Training Sites


Primary training sites

Halifax Infirmary, QE II Health Sciences Centre

1796 Summer Street, Halifax NS, B3H 3A7


IWK Health Centre

5850/5980 University Avenue, Halifax NS, B3K 6R8



Affiliated neurosurgical units

Saint John Regional Hospital

400 University Avenue, Saint John NB, E2L 4L2


The Moncton Hospital

135 MacBeath Avenue, Moncton NB, E1C 6Z8


Health Sciences Centre - Eastern Health

300 Prince Phillip Drive, St. John's NL, A1B 3V6
NOTE: All residency programs are required to have 10% of their residency training outside of Halifax Regional Municipality as stipulated in the most recent Academic Funding Plan set out by the Department of Health and Wellness. Please be aware that if matched to Halifax, as part of your training you may be expected to complete rotations outside Central Zone but within the Maritime Provinces.

Additional Information

Maritime Resident Doctors represents the interests of approximately 550 resident physicians training at Dalhousie University. They are a member organization of Resident Doctors of Canada, and work constantly to improve the well-being of members.Their website has lots of useful information on residency in Nova Scotia. 

Have a look at our Instagram page for a peek at life in the Halifax Neurosurgery residency program.

Video: check out why YOU should apply to Dalhousie Neurosurgery!


What is the call like? How many sites do I cover?

The neurosurgical resident on call is responsible for adult inpatients at the Halifax Infirmary site as well as pediatric patients at the IWK. The two sites are a ten-minute walk apart. Taxi vouchers are provided. Junior residents are expected to stay in house overnight; mid-level and senior residents can do call from home (provided they live close enough to arrive rapidly in emergencies.) Call is maximum 1 in 4, no more than two weekends per month.

Residents report that on average, about 1/3 of their call nights are very busy, 1/3 are pretty quiet, and 1/3 are busy up until midnight or so.


How is vacation time scheduled?

Residents are entitled to 28 days of vacation during each complete academic year. A maximum of seven (7) vacation days can be taken per 28-day rotation block. There is no service that is exempt from permitting vacation. All vacation/conference requests should be made a minimum of 3 months in advance. Decisions regarding approval by services for vacation requests should be given to the applicant within 2 weeks of the date of submission. Vacation cannot be refused for service reasons, unless another resident has already been granted vacation for that block. 


How expensive is it to live in Halifax?

Halifax offers varied housing options, including apartments, condominiums, as well as larger homes with backyards for families.  There are many urban, rural, and suburban communities to choose from.

The average cost for a one-bedroom apartment in the City Centre is approximately $1630.00 per month.

The average cost for a three-bedroom apartment in the City Centre is approximately $2170.00 per month.

The average price of homes sold in Halifax in August of 2022 was $533,500.


What are the benefits and compensation for a resident?

The starting salary for PGY-1 on July 1, 2023 will be $69,175, plus a call stipend. Health and dental insurance, life and disability insurance, and an employee and family assistance program are offered by Maritime Resident Doctors


What type of support do residents receive once in the Program?

The Residency Program Director and Program Administrator are typically the first points of contact and support for the Resident throughout the training period. The Program Director acts as the Faculty Advisor, providing mentorship, advocacy, and support through regular meetings as well as contact on an “as required” basis during times of stress or challenge in a Resident's life. The Neurosurgery Residency Program also has an "Ombuddy", someone outside the Division of Neurosurgery who can be approached with any issues or concerns. 

Through the Maritime Resident Doctors Employee and Family Assistance Program, residents have 24/7 access to self-guided resources, as well as support over the phone and online. If you prefer to meet with a counselling professional in person, appointments can also be arranged. 

The Dalhousie PGME Office of Resident Affairs also offers support and assistance. 


Summary of changes

SUMMARY ID Section Summary of changes Updated on NOTIFY APPLICANTS SECTION NAME Actions