From Canada originally, Amanda had plans throughout her childhood to become a ballerina and came around to the idea of medicine later in her teens. An Honors graduate in Health Sciences at Brock University, Amanda wasn’t sure what to expect going to medical school, having no doctors in her family, other than that she would have to work hard. “I knew that I would succeed if I put in the work, but Saba gave me the opportunity to excel. I think the competitive environment in combination with the supportive friendships I made was why I did well. I was really pushed to operate at a level that I hadn’t yet reached before.”
The Saba environment was much to her liking. “My class was particularly close knit, and to this day some of my very best friends are from Saba. There are 6 of us in particular who talk almost every day. We are in different residencies, in different states, but we visit each other and have been lucky enough to share each other’s successes and celebrations through the year. They really are family.”
Amanda decided she wanted to become surgeon early on in her clinical training, having started her rotations with her surgery clerkship at Saint Mary’s Hospital. “I spent 12 weeks just totally immersed in the day-to-day grind of the surgical world: rounds, OR, procedures, rounds… I didn’t really think about whether I liked it or not, I just did… And then when it was all over, I realized it was what I needed to do. I was fortunate to do my Sub-Internship in Surgery at Saint Mary’s Hospital and ultimately match there. My first clerkship director who encouraged me to consider surgery in the first place, in my is now my program director and my boss.”
Now in her surgical residency, Amanda’s interests in Public Health lead her to her current position as a Research Scholar at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. She is working alongside faculty members to investigate disparities in access to surgery and outcomes from emergency surgeries, based on insurance type. “The ultimate goal is to identify any disparities that exist, and advocate for either local practice changes or legislative changes that would close these gaps and improve equal access to and delivery of surgical care.” She is also participating in continuing hibernation projects at UMass which are in collaboration with several other institutions, investigating anticoagulation in hibernating black bears. “The thought is that if we can understand and explain why the hibernating black bear doesn’t get blood clots during hibernation, we can improve treatment of patients who experience blood clots after surgery.’
Amanda has recently decided that after her general surgery residency, she will pursue training in plastic surgery. “Plastic surgery is most appealing to me as it combines artistry and innovation. There is enormous variety, as plastic surgeons treat conditions resulting from various etiologies, whether they be traumatic, congenital, or due to disfiguring cancers. Ultimately, plastic surgery allows patients to experience transformations that are not only cosmetic, but overall improve function and quality of life. Each patient’s problem must be understood and taken on with an individualized approach and a meticulous attention to detail. Also, a significant proportion of plastic surgeons are interested in Global Surgery, since the access to reconstructive surgeons and the need for reconstructive surgery may also be greater in low and middle-income countries. Global Surgery has always been a passion of mine, and learning that so many people in plastics had a similar interest was what actually initially drew me to the field.”
In March 2018, she joined a team of approximately 25 volunteers, on their SaveSmile trip to Sudan. A team of plastic surgeons, anesthesiologists, pediatric internists, emergency physicians, residents and other volunteers traveled to Khartoum, Sudan for a week long surgical mission to repair cleft lips. Cleft lip and palate represent an important functional problem, that impairs speech and ability to eat and drink. Children may be malnourished as a result and also suffer recurrent respiratory infections due to aspirations. Both children and adults suffer from the stigma associated with cleft lip, and sometimes this may prevent them from going to school, gaining employment and overall social acceptance. Amanda was part of a team that performed approximately 25-40 cleft lip repairs per day, and nearly 200 cases in 5 days. “This was the groups 9th consecutive year travelling to Sudan, where there is a significant shortage of plastic surgeons, and where there are significant barriers to access to plastic surgery. Many people live in remote areas and without resources for transport or travel. They travel far and wide for surgery and seeing them smile, happily and proudly after surgery, was such a wonderful experience.” She is looking forward to participating again this year with the group as they return to Sudan for their 10th SaveSmile.