University of Alberta - Neurosurgery - Edmonton

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

Last approved on September 27, 2022

Summary of changes

Approximate Quota:


Accreditation status : Accredited

Provincial Criteria

Dr. Mike Chow
2D2 Walter Mackenzie Health Sciences Center  
8440 - 112 Street
Edmonton, Alberta, T6G 2B7
Division of Neurosurgery
UofA Surgical Residency Google Site
Surgical Simulation Program

Program Contacts

Michael Chow
Program Director

Jen Granfield
Program Administrator

Important Information

​Competence by Design

The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada​ (RCPSC)​ 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 p​​atient needs.

CBD uses time as a resource rather than the basis for progression. It is not anticipated that the duration of training will change for the majority of trainees. Residency programs are broken down into stages, and each stage encompasses a series of entrustable professional activities (EPAs) and milestones based on required competencies. These EPAs and milestones 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.

Our program successfully transitioned to CBD in accordance with the national coordinated schedule as of July 1, 2019.​ Our program will continue to undergo the same rigorous accreditation process as traditional programs. All programs, CBD and traditional, will continue to lead to RCPSC-approved certification. ​Within a CBD program, all EPAs (documented within an electronic portfolio), stage promotions and the Royal College examination must be successfully completed to achieve certification. For more information, please contact​

Return of Service

There are no return of service requirements at the University of Alberta.

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)
• Record of Landing, clearly showing the date of landing in Canada

Canadian Permanent Resident card must be accompanied by Record of Landing, clearly showing the date of landing in Canada.

Language proficiency
Submit one of the following documents to verify your language proficiency:
• Occupational English Test (OET) - Medicine
• Canadian English Language Proficiency Index Program (CELPIP) - General

Please refer to the provincial criteria for Alberta for specific English Language Proficiency requirements.

Reference documents
Number requested: 3

Three (3) reference letters are required. 

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

Personal Letter 
Word count
Minimum : None
Maximum : None

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.

Custom Résumé / CV 

CASPer exam 

Your CASPer assessment result is sent directly to CaRMS from Altus approximately one week prior to the application deadline. Please ensure that you give Altus permission to share your results with CaRMS.
The CASPer assessment is only valid for one admissions cycle. If you have taken the assessment in a previous year, you are expected to re-take it. To register for the CASPer assessment visit

Optional - will be reviewed

Please submit abstracts only. Complete publications will not be reviewed. 

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



  • February 8, 2023
Interviews will be scheduled on Wednesday, February 8th.  All interviews will be virtual. A virtual social event will be held on Tuesday, February 7th.

Program will notify all applicants through CaRMS Online and will send email invitations directly to applicants selected for an interview.
Interviews will be conducted by faculty members and Neurosurgery residents, and will cover a variety of topics including some clinical decision making scenarios. Candidates will rotate through multiple interview stations.


Selection Criteria

-Strong interest and dedication in the field of neuroscience and interest in neurosurgical research endeavors.

All applicants to the Neurosurgery residency program at the University of Alberta are required to complete the CASPER (Computer-Based Assessment for Sampling Personal Characteristics) test, to assist with our selection process. Successful completion of CASPER is mandatory in order to maintain admission eligibility. CASPER is an open-response, situational judgment test that evaluates aspects of applicants’ social intelligence and professionalism such as ethics, empathy, problem-solving and collaboration. For more information on the test, go to Casper scores are only valid for a single admissions cycle and for the test type for which you have taken the test. For example, if an applicant took the Canadian Post Graduate Medical Education test for the CaRMS Round 1 match, the same Casper score will be considered for the Round 2 match. 

Program goals

The primary objective of the Neurosurgical program at the University of Alberta is to develop graduates of excellent moral and ethical character who possess the factual knowledge, surgical technical skills and motivation required to successfully practice neurosurgery in Canada or elsewhere.  Candidates are selected and trained for careers in either academic or community neurosurgery.  This initial formal period of training represents only one phase in the evolution of a profession characterized by continuing self-evaluation and self-education.

Selection process goals

The successful applicant will demonstrate a strong work ethic and a true commitment to neurosurgery.  Critical thinking is important.  Strong interpersonal skills and a collaborative approach is vital.  Given the nature of the specialty, the ability to perform under pressure is a requirement.  Strong visuo-spatial skills and fine motor skills are necessary.  Professionalism in previous interactions will be assessed.

File review process

Review team composition : The applicant files are reviewed by paired members of the RPC. All members of the RPC are involved. An objective score will be used to decide on a shortlist of applicants invited for an interview.

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 Advanced degrees, publications and presentations (emphasis on neurosurgery topics)
Electives Electives will not be considered a requirement as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and its effect on elective experiences.
Examinations CASPer exam required.
Extra-curricular Interests outside of neurosurgery considered as a indication of how "well-rounded" applicant is
Leadership skills Not required but useful to have if present
MSPRs Will review for red flags
Personal letters Insight into motivation valuable
Reference documents Insight into applicants' strengths and weakness, a very important factor
Research/Publications Sign of academic productivity may predict future success in residency
Transcripts only cursorily reviewed for red flags

Elective criteria

Since elective experiences were limited due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we will not consider electives during file review in order to ensure that file review is fair and equitable for all candidates.
We do not require applicants to have done onsite electives.

Electives will not be considered a requirement as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and its effect on elective experiences.


Interview process

Interview format :

We routinely accommodate requests to re-schedule interviews for applicants.

Interview evaluation criteria :
Interview components Criteria
Collaboration skills Ability to work with others
Collegiality Relationships with others vital for success in residency
Communication skills Vital component because it is the downfall of many unsuccessful residents
Health advocacy Demonstration of this will be considered.
Interest in the discipline Neurosurgery as the first choice is important in applicant consideration.
Interest in the program Motivation to come to Edmonton will factor into ranking
Leadership skills We do not evaluate this interview component
Professionalism Critical and has been the downfall of previous unsuccessful residents
Scholarly activities Demonstration by publications is helpful but not critical

Information gathered outside of CaRMS application

We do not consider any information gathered outside of the CaRMS application and local interview processes.

Ranking process

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

Program Highlights

1) Residents are exposed to a robust and diverse clinical experience at three sites: University Hospital, Royal Alexandra Hospital and the Stollery Children's Hospital. (Over 2500 clinical operative cases are done annually).

2) The University of Alberta Neurosurgical Residency Program offers a unique PGY 4 experience. Residents are able to explore research interests, pre-fellowship interests and/or further clinical experience (academic or community) during this year.

3) A formal academic schedule exists for Neurosurgery residents, including Gamma Knife Rounds, Journal Club, Neuroscience Grand Rounds, Quality Assurance Rounds, and Neurosurgery case rounds and didactic rounds.  Regular sessions in our Simulation Lab are scheduled throughout the year.

4) Residents gain experience in all aspects of subspecialty Neurosurgery and new innovative Neurosurgical equipment. (Complex spine, neuro-endoscopy, deep brain stimulation, endovascular neurosurgery, functional neurosurgery and gamma knife).

5) Residents receive expense coverage for meetings, microneurosurgical symposiums and review courses.

Residents are encouraged to attend at least one Neurosurgical meeting or symposium per year and are expected to develop fluency in case and paper presentations at the weekly Neuroscience Grand Rounds.  A didactic schedule of lectures given by faculty runs throughout the year to cover the entire curriculum in a 3 year cycle.  Written exams after each block are administered as well as a practice oral exam yearly.  The Annual National in-training written exam is also administered.  Practice oral examinations are offered by faculty members in preparation for the Royal College Neurosurgical Fellowship Examinations for those residents in their final year of training.

Upon completion of training, graduates from the University of Alberta become competent in performing the full spectrum of Neurosurgical practice.

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 primary objective of the Neurosurgical program at the University of Alberta is to develop within a six-year time frame, graduates of excellent moral and ethical character who possess the factual knowledge, surgical technical skills and motivation required to successfully practice Neurosurgery in Canada or elsewhere. Candidates are selected and trained with a view to careers in academic neurosurgery and are made aware that this initial formal period of training represents only one phase in the evolution of a profession characterized by continuing self-evaluation and self-education.


Interprovincial and international electives are available throughout the course of training. Recently residents have done clinical electives in developing countries (Kenya) and in community neurosurgery centres in Canada (Victoria, Kingston).  Research electives have taken place internationally (Finland).  Residents have also completed research years at the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, Arizona and with the Endovascular group at the University of Montreal.


The Division of Neurosurgery at the University of Alberta has been active in clinical and basic scientific research, offering Masters and Doctoral programs. Our research endeavors currently include the study of:

-Aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage

-Blood transfusion in subarachnoid hemorrhage

-Clinical Trials of aneurysm treatment

-Dendritic cell immunotherapy for malignant gliomas

- Quality of life measures in brain tumour patients

-Neuroanatomical impact of radiation therapy in the treatment of glial tumours

-Cervical spondylotic myelopathy

-Spinal cord regeneration

-Management of spinal cord injury

-Hydrocephalus Research

-Use of diffusion tensor imaging in the intra-operative MRI environment

-Neuroimaging biomarkers of response to surgical treatment of epilepsy and trigeminal neuralgia

-Neuroimaging features of treatment-resistant depression

-Impact of deep brain stimulation therapy on speech and language function

-Quantitative assessment of gait and postural instability in Parkinson's disease patients undergoing DBS



MSc ( 1-2 year ) or PhD (3 years) programs are available to interested residents. The basic science laboratories are housed in the new Heritage Medical Research Building adjacent to the University Hospital . For further information regarding our research endeavors please review our Neurosurgery website. Annual research projects are completed under the supervision of a preceptor with the goal to present at the annual Alberta Neurosurgical Society Meeting, the Department of Surgery Research Day and/or the national meeting.


The PGY-1 year is part of the Surgical Foundations Program at the University of Alberta. In Neurosurgery the PGY-1 rotations are: one 28-day block of Coronary Care Unit, one 28-day block of Emergency Medicine,  two 28-day blocks of General Surgery, one 28-day block of Anesthesia, six 28-day blocks of Neurosurgery, one 28-day block of Pediatric Neurosurgery and one 28-day block of vacation.


The PGY-2 year consists of: 7 blocks of Neurosurgery at either the University of Alberta Hospital or the Royal Alexandra Hospital, 3 blocks of ICU, 2 blocks of Neurology and 1 block of Neuroradiology.


To fulfill Royal College requirements, in this year, the resident will spend 3 blocks on Neuropathology, 1 block on Gamma Knife and 1 block on Interventional Neuroradiology.  The remainder of the year is spent on Clinical Neurosurgery rotations.


This year is designated for research or may be utilized as dedicated time to pursue a clinical elective.  If the resident desires to obtain a Masters or PhD, additional years may be accommodated.

PGY-5 to 6

These final 2 years are utilized to fulfill the current requirement of 42 months on the Clinical Neurosurgical Service.  At least 12 months will be spent as the Chief Resident.  With the shift to Competency Based evaluation, the last 3 months will be Transition to Practice.

As residents graduate into their senior years, responsibilities will include running the teams at the University site, presenting cases at QA rounds and case presentation rounds, organizing schedules and running the Neurosurgery Intensive Care Unit with the Neuro-Intensivist.

Training Sites

Walter C. MacKenzie Health Sciences Center (University of Alberta Hospital)

Royal Alexandra Hospital

Stollery Children's Hospital

Computer equipment is available for exclusive resident use with appropriate software

Website: Division of Neurosurgery (

Summary of changes

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