University of Ottawa - Neurosurgery - Ottawa

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

Under revision

Last approved on October 03, 2022

Approximate Quota:

 click here

Accreditation status : Accredited

Provincial Criteria

Dr. Brian Drake
Surgery, Division of Neurosurgery 
The Ottawa Hospital, Civic Campus 
1053 Carling Avenue, C2
Ottawa , Ontario, K1Y 4E9
613 798 5555 x 10661
Division of Neurosurgery, University of Ottawa

Program Contacts

Residency Program Director, Division of Neurosurgery
Dr. Fahad AlKherayf

Program Administrator, Division of Neurosurgery
Jennifer Laurin

Important Information

All candidates must meet the Ontario Criteria of Eligibility found here

COVID-19 vaccination

Please be aware that most, if not all, hospitals in Ontario have mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policies in place that require, in the absence of a valid medical or human rights exemption, proof of vaccination. Acceptable vaccination must be in accordance with Health Canada. You will be required to provide an attestation that you meet this requirement as part of the CaRMS application process and any actual documentation will be collected by the appropriate institution if matched. These guidelines could change at any time in accordance with future direction from the Ministry of Health or the Universities based on information from Public Health.

MCCQE (Medical Council of Canada qualifying examination) Part 1 results:

Trainees will be required to disclose their MCCQE Part 1 examination results if taken, upon entry into any of the University of Ottawa's training programs. Please note that the MCCQE Part 1 is not a requirement to begin residency. The purpose of this disclosure is to allow for resources to be provided to the few residents who would benefit from extra support early in their residency in an effort to maximize their success.

Failure to meet or provide proof of any of the stated requirements may result in an applicant’s file not being reviewed or removed from the Rank Order List.

Return of Service

The Ministry requests all ROS agreements before June 1 of the year they were matched. All agreements should be returned to the Ministry prior to the start of residency training.

More information for IMG ROS can be found here.

Information about the Ministry’s ROS programs is available here.

General Instructions

Program application language: English

All candidates must meet the Ontario criteria of eligibility.



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.
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 Citizenship Card (both sides of card)
• Canadian Permanent Resident Card (both sides of card)

Proof of valid current citizenship or permanent resident status must be provided by submitting one of the following verifications to CaRMS by the File Review Opening deadline. Failure to provide valid proof will result in your application being removed. No other forms of verification are acceptable:

  • Notarized/certified photocopy of Birth Certificate/Act of Birth issued by an authority in Canada accompanied by photo ID (must be Canadian government-issued photo ID).
  • Failure to provide proof of citizenship will result in the removal of your application. No other forms of verification are acceptable.
  • Documents must be notarized/certified photocopies. Notarized/certified copies must be dated and not older than two years from the date of application submission deadline; otherwise, a new notarized/certified copy is required.
  • Confirmation of permanent residence must be accompanied by a photo ID (must be a Canadian government-issued photo ID).
Language proficiency
Submit one of the following documents to verify your language proficiency:
• Letter of language proficiency
• Occupational English Test (OET) - Medicine
• Canadian English Language Proficiency Index Program (CELPIP) - General

Language assessment document accepted: TOEFL-iBT

  • Document validity (not expired) by: Must be valid up to the assignment of applications and documents deadline
  • Minimum score: 93 with a minimum score of 24 on the speaking section

Language assessment document accepted: IELTS Academic

  • Document validity (not expired) by: Must be valid up to the assignment of applications and documents deadline
  • Minimum score: 7 in each component

Language assessment document accepted: Occupational English Test (OET) -Medicine

  • Document validity (not expired) by: Must be valid up to July 1, 2023
  • Minimum score: Minimum grade of B in each component

Language assessment document accepted: Canadian English Language Proficiency Index Program (CELPIP) – General

  • Document validity (not expired) by: Must be valid up to July 1, 2023
  • Minimum score: Minimum score of 9 in each component

Language assessment document accepted: Letter of language proficiency*

*Alternatively, candidates can submit a printout from the World Directory of Medical Schools which clearly states that the language of instruction is English or French.

The IELTS Indicator will be accepted as a substitute for the Academic Version of the IELTS.

The TOEFL iBT Home Edition will be accepted as a substitute for the TOEFL iBT.

Applicants must be able to communicate proficiently in the language of instruction and patient care of the matching school and training site. Please review specific program descriptions for more information.

Reference documents
Number requested: 3
Additional documents
Personal Letter 
Word count
Minimum : None
Maximum : 500

Your personal letter should not exceed 500 words and should answer the following four questions:

  • Why choose a residency program in Neurosurgery?
  • Why Neurosurgery in Ottawa?
  • What is your strength?
  • What would you bring to our team?

Custom Résumé / CV 

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 International (IMGs) and United States (USMGs) medical graduates, you can submit your MSPR through either of the methods below:

  1. Upload your MSPR directly into your CaRMS Online account; or
  2. Ask your medical school to upload your MSPR through their CaRMS Undergraduate Portal account.
If your MSPR is in a language other than the program language of English or French, you are required to have the document translated.

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 submitted documentation is reviewed by a panel of 2 Faculty Neurosurgeons and 1 Resident in the Neurosurgery program. All elements of the application are reviewed and assessed by examining the following: memorability and impact of personal letter, breadth and success of personal and academic accomplishments, remarkability of all reference letters, and well-roundedness of the applicant's CV. These scores are then tabulated and create a rank to determine who receives an interview and who does not. 



  • February 16, 2023
Neurosurgery Program interviews are distributed nationally to best ensure applicant's ability to interview at several schools. All those invited for an interview will receive an invitation to a virtual CaRMS pre-interview meet and greet event and information session that will take place prior to the interview date. The purpose of this is to allow the applicants to get to know some of the staff, residents and to inquire about the program. Interviews will take place on February 16, 2023 all day and residents will have the opportunity to hear more about the program and ask any questions they may have.

Program will notify all applicants through CaRMS Online and will send email invitations directly to applicants selected for an interview.
All members of the Division of Neurosurgery and all residents of the postgraduate training program participate in the CaRMS process. All on-line applications and supporting documentation is reviewed by at least 2 staff members and 1 resident. This then creates a rank order which informs who will be interviewed. All applicants will be notified by the Program of whether they were successful in securing an interview or not.  Decisions of the selection committee as to who is interviewed are final.

The interview process includes evaluation by both faculty and resident staff from the University of Ottawa, Neurosurgery Residency Training Program.

The interview process is structured as an MMI (multiple mini interviews), whereby each candidate will be visiting each of 4 stations. Each station is 15 minutes in length and addresses a different topic. There will be at least 1 staff and 1 resident evaluating the applicant responses at each station.

Applicants will have the opportunity to attend a virtual CaRMS meet and greet event and information session prior to the interview day, in order to obtain more information about the program. Attendance at both is encouraged.

Selection Criteria

The Neurosurgery Training program at the University of Ottawa seeks applicants with a strong academic record, references attesting to proficiency in learning, interest in the specialty of neurosurgery and excellent interpersonal skills.

Program goals

The main goals of the Neurosurgery Residency Program are:

•To recruit the highest caliber trainees wishing to pursue a career in the field of neurosurgery.

•To provide a conducive and nurturing learning environment in which trainees will be able to achieve the highest level of competence in the field of neurosurgery.

•To provide instruction, both by precept and by mentoring, in a carefully controlled and tailored manner to ensure that trainees develop knowledge, skills and attitudes in a systematic manner.

•To ensure that all trainees attain the Essential Roles and Key Competencies of Specialist Physicians as defined by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada

•To ensure that trainees meet all the requirements and pass all the prescribed examinations of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada for Specialist Certification in Neurosurgery.

•To ensure that all trainees acquire all the essential training to prepare them to practice Neurosurgery to the highest professional and ethical standards.

•To provide and facilitate post-graduate research opportunities for trainees wishing to undertake clinical and basic science research as part of their career path.

•To provide community practice experience for trainees whose career objectives include community practice.

•To educate residents from other subspecialties in the basic principles of neurological surgery including the management of neurotrauma, degenerative disease of the spine, neuro-oncology and neurovascular disease.

•To stimulate residents’ interest in innovation and innovative approaches to solving ongoing problems in neurosurgery and in the field of neuroscience generally.

•To achieve these goals, the Residency Program Committee has approved both General and Specific objectives of training.

Selection process goals

  • strong, well-rounded CV
  • strong academic record
  • demonstrated interest in the neurosurgical specialty through exposure
  • collegial and professional with good communication skills
  • demonstrated motivation and desire to learn continually
  • demonstrated interest in pursuing research opportunities pertaining to basic science, clinical neurosurgery, business or education as they pertain to neurosurgery
  • demonstrated resilience and desire to work hard

File review process

Review team composition : Each application is reviewed by a panel of 3 individuals- 2 Faculty Neurosurgeons and one resident in the postgraduate neurosurgical training program.

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 achievements, extra-curriculars, volunteerism, outreach initiatives, awards/grants.
Electives completed at least 1 elective in neurosurgery preferred.
Examinations We do not evaluate this file component.
Extra-curricular interests outside of medicine that promote work-life balance.
Leadership skills experience in leading a team or group in a healthcare or non-healthcare environment.
MSPRs reviewed to ensure no red flags such as failed rotations or professionalism concerns.
Personal letters memorable, personal, shows interest in neurosurgery.
Reference documents Comments on whether the applicant will be an excellent Neurosurgeon resident and Neurosurgeon physician.
Research/Publications some type of research activity either presentation, publication or current project is preferred.
Transcripts reviewed to ensure no failed rotations. Failed rotation do impact overall file review score.
Other file component(s) demonstrated interest in University of Ottawa Neurosurgery Program via completion of elective or observership either for a clinical or research placement.

Elective criteria

We encourage applicants to have completed at least one elective in our discipline.
On-site electives are not a requirement however it is preferred. We encourage candidates to have completed a sufficiently broad of electives with at least one elective in Neurosurgery. Elective experiences will be reviewed however we are sensitive to the lack of elective opportunities caused by the current pandemic situation. This will be taken into consideration and leniency for this criteria will be exerted.

At the University of Ottawa, we believe that the best residents are those who have been able to explore the breadth of the medical professional through suitable electives while enrolled in medical school.  We do not preferentially rank applicants who have only pursued electives in one discipline.  We support the concept that students should do a minimum of at least 2 week electives in 3 different specialities. 

Medical Students that have completed an elective in the Division of Neurosurgery with The Ottawa Hospital/University of Ottawa will have better insight to our program and will help them with the application process.

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 describes teamwork experiences in a healthcare/ other setting.
Collegiality kind, and professional interactions with the everyone throughout the interview process.
Communication skills clear, concise and focused verbal and non-verbal interactions; appropriate emotional intelligence.
Health advocacy demonstrated knowledge and actions to positively influence and improve patient care
Interest in the discipline demonstrated knowledge of its scope of practice; exposure to the field clinically or for research.
Interest in the program demonstrated knowledge of offered training experiences; asks relevant questions about program.
Leadership skills evidence of leading groups, being captain, having great responsibility in healthcare/other setting.
Professionalism evidence of good moral reasoning, compassion, commitment and resilience in medical/other scenarios.
Scholarly activities describes experiences conducting research; describes future interests in research.
Other interview component(s) Medical and clinical knowledge of Neurosurgery as demonstrated by questions appropriate for a fourth year medical student level.
Resiliency/ Well-being as demonstrated by appropriate work-life balance.

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

The University of Ottawa Division of Neurosurgery is a fully-accredited Royal College training program. The program encourages residents to pursue research opportunities and supports their residents in pursuing outside opportunities such as Masters or PhD programs and are supported to present their research at national conferences. Resident input is valued very highly and bi-monthly resident meetings are scheduled to ensure training is up to par. The Division of Neurosurgery has a medium-sized faculty with a large variety of specializations including spine surgery, cerebrovascular surgery, pediatric neurosurgery, skull-base surgery, interventional neuroradiological neurosurgery, and peripheral nerve. 

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 Neurosurgery Training Program covers a period of six clinical years with the option of including additional research years enfolded within the residency after the PGY-2 year. As of the 2019-2020 academic year, the Neurosurgery programs in Canada have moved to the Competence- By- Design model. This allows for curricula to be modified slightly to ensure residents' attain their assessments of enstrustable professional activities. Throughout the 6 years, residents will be exposed to the following:

  • Surgical Foundations curriculum
  • Emergency Medicine
  • General Surgery- Trauma
  • Pediatric Neurosurgery
  • Neuroradiology
  • Neuropathology
  • ICU
  • Interventional Radiology
  • Neurology
  • Vascular Surgery
  • Orthopedic Surgery (emphasis on spine service)
  • Thoracic Surgery
  • Internal Medicine
  • Research
  • Extensive training in Neurosurgery


Academic Sessions

  • Academic Half Days occur every Friday morning and include resident seminars and clinical case presentations. The academic days are protected time for all residents, during which residents are completely free from all clinical duties.
  • Bi-Weekly Spine Rounds
  • Weekly Neurosciences Rounds
  • Weekly Neuro-oncology Rounds
  • Weekly Neuroradiology Presentations
  • Weekly Neurovascular Rounds
  • Monthly INR Rounds
  • Monthly Skull Base Rounds
  • Monthly Neuro-Oncology rounds (Tumour Board)
  • Monthly Mortality and Morbidity Rounds
  • Quarterly Journal Club Meetings
  • Quarterly Peripheral Nerve Rounds 
  • Semi-Annual Visiting Professorships
  • Annual Neurosurgery Research Fair
  • Annual Ottawa Neurosurgery Review Course
  • Annual Department of Surgery, Collins Research Day


Training Sites


The Ottawa Hospital (TOH) and the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) provide neurosurgical care for residents of Eastern Ontario and Western Quebec with a wide variety of neurosurgical disorders. These hospitals form our fully integrated Neurosurgery Service with full-time faculty members directing the training programs at each hospital.  Approximately 1800 neurosurgical operations covering the full spectrum of neurosurgical problems are performed at TOH and CHEO each year. There is a fully integrated Level I Adult Regional Trauma Program at the Civic Campus of the Ottawa Hospital and a similar program for pediatrics at the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario.


The program is closely allied to basic neuroscience research activity conducted within the University (Faculty of Medicine) and the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute (OHRI) -The Brain & Mind Institute, and the Loeb Research Institute. The National Research Council and Health Canada are conveniently nearby and have resources that are readily available, including the Library at CISTI (Canadian Institute for Scientific and Technical Information). Residents are encouraged and supported to pursue additional training in basic sciences and clinical outcomes research, within the Royal College Clinician-Investigation Program (CIP).

Additional Information

Financial support for specialized courses and meetings is available to all residents throughout residency as all residents are encouraged to actively participate in clinical and basic science research on an annual basis during training.  Attendance at the R.U.N.N. (Woods Hole, MA) basic neuroscience review course is also offered to all residents intending to pursue additional training in basic science or clinical research during residency.  Residents are encouraged to present their academic research annually both at the University of Ottawa Annual Collins Research Day and at national and international neurosurgical meetings with funding for travel/registration supported by the Residency Program.