CSurgeries: An International Perspective With Dr. Juliana Bonilla-Velez

Dr. Juliana Bonilla-Velez

PGY 4 – Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences

Tell me a little bit about yourself.

My name is Juliana Bonilla-Velez, and I’m a 4th year resident at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. I’m originally from Colombia, and that’s where I did my medical training. I was very fortunate to work with Dr. Rocco at Mass Eye & Ear Institute as a postdoctoral research fellow on oropharyngeal cancer, and then I came to do my residency training at UAMS. Here, I was also very fortunate to be able to work with Dr. Richter – who is not only one of the founders but an avid promoter of CSurgeries.

He introduced me to CSurgeries very early on in my training. It really is an amazing tool, especially for residents to be able to easily visualize all the things that you are reading!  At times, it can be difficult to put all the aspects of a surgery together (especially if you haven’t seen that type of surgery before) or to learn how different people [surgeons] do things. There are so many different techniques for each type of surgery, so I feel like it’s a great avenue that enriches resident education.

Dr. Bonilla-Velez, I understand you published with CSurgeries in June 2016.  What can you tell me about your experience? Was it easy? Difficult?

It was my first experience making a video, so that was a little challenging. I was working together with a medical student and we made a really good team.  She worked a bit more on the media aspect of helping to put the video together, but then we were able to work together and incorporate some of the more technical aspects of the surgery, and important steps and findings to highlight.

In fact, the recording of the procedure was not difficult at all. It did not interfere with the clinical aspect of what we were doing. The surgery went great, and recording did not obstruct it, make it slower or impose any impediment to the completion of the surgery. At the same time, it was very insightful to be able to review all of it and to put it together in a format that would be easy to teach others what was going on. Not only was it a great experience…it was fun!

It’s very interesting that as a resident you were able to partner with a medical student to take over the technical aspect of video recording and editing while you were able to oversee and supervise the surgical content. Having recently partnered with the International Association of Student Surgical Societies, it confirms that we’re going in the right direction. 

Absolutely. Even as a medical student, I was very involved in research and publication. I was actually one of the founders of the International Journal of Medical Students which was an amazing experience, but also gave me a better understanding of the other side of making science. From a medical student’s perspective, it is such an enriching and fulfilling experience to be able to participate in all of these avenues for publishing – participate in research projects, writing manuscripts or making videos – just learning how to think in that way, getting your feet wet and learning all of these skills are so important for the rest of your career as a physician, especially now with evidence-based medicine.

How has publishing with CSurgeries contributed to education as a surgical resident?

As an author, it was very interesting to be able to go through the process of putting the video together, thinking through all the technical aspects of what we were doing and summarizing it in a short format that would be easy to show others.

As a viewer and user of CSurgeries, it allows you to be able to see different techniques for different types of surgeries. Perhaps the Attending at your institution is doing the procedure one way, but seeing how others are doing it in other places certainly enriches your education. In preparation for surgery, CSurgeries publications allow you to see what the steps are, so you can get a more visual understanding of what it is you are going to be doing and what you’re reading in the books. In surgery, even more so than other specialties, this is critical. Learning in 2D in one thing.  Being able to see in 3D what it is you’re actually going to be seeing in surgery is quite another. For that reason, CSurgeries is definitely a very valuable tool – especially for people in training.

As a user of CSurgeries, is there a particular CSurgeries publication you recommend (either within or outside of your specialty) you recommend for our members to view and why?

As a 4th year resident, at least in my program, we haven’t started our otology rotation, so I feel like I struggle a little bit more trying to imagine and put together all the otologic surgeries. I haven’t been exposed to them nor have I seen them before. For that reason, one video that was very useful to me that I really enjoyed was Right Stapedotomy that was published by Dr. Babu at the Michigan Ear Institute. Just seeing the video, especially with the ear (it’s such intricate anatomy) was extremely useful. Having access to such a high-quality video that walks you through the surgery, seeing all the steps clearly, was really great.

Of course, there are going to be personal circumstances for which you would find a video more educational than others- depending on what your institution does or your prior experiences. One of the really neat things about CSurgeries is that there’s so much variety- not only within otolaryngology, but among all the other specialties. It’s got something for everyone.

You mentioned you are also a founder of the International Journal of Medical Students. What can you tell me about the IJMS?

Our vision was to create a space that would be made by medical students for medical students to promote research and to provide an avenue for publication that would include all specialties. We aim to speak to medical students who are in a unique part of their training. Not only do we offer a window for them to show their publications, but we are able to help get them to that high-quality level of having a paper that is amenable for publication.

It was also a very exciting to build a team of people that would be able to represent all  – not only from around the globe but also those in different stages of their training. We have mentors who have guided us from the beginning, taught us to put all these pieces together and to provide not only an avenue but a service for medical students worldwide where they can publish their work and learn. Especially nowadays where medicine is guided by the paradigm of Evidence-Based Medicine, it’s critical for physicians to be able not only to do research but to understand the research that is published. It serves to train both the authors and the students who are learning to be the editors about all the different aspects of the publication process.  It’s been a really very rewarding experience knowing we’ve been able to contribute to medical students’ education worldwide.

How is publishing with CSurgeries different from publishing with IJMS? How are they similar?

It’s different in the sense that the CSurgeries is a video peer-reviewed journal. It’s very visually perfect for the surgical field because it takes you through the novel of each surgery by  showing what the key structures are and the key steps you need to be doing. It’s very educational, especially for people in training. In terms of similarities, both aim to educate physicians, students and other surgeons. IJMS provides an avenue for written publication of research along with the more traditional strategies while CSurgeries provides an avenue for video publication. Both share a common mission of education.

What advice do you have for international medical graduates looking to pursue surgical residency in the United States?

It’s certainly a very difficult task, but at the same time, it can be immensely rewarding. You have to be very passionate about what you want to do, what you want to accomplish, and what you want for your life. If your goals are clear and you can translate all that passion into hard work and dedication to your specialty, that goes a long way. It’s certainly hard but not impossible. I’d highly encourage you to push through the difficulties if you feel that’s your life mission. Don’t give up on your dreams.

What would you be doing if you were not a surgeon?

Oh gosh! There is nothing else I would rather be doing! I wish I could have a parallel life to be able to do all the things I want to do, but all at the same time. But certainly the life I would not give up is being a future pediatric otolaryngologist and be able to continue to participate in academics, in research and education, and in clinical practice and leadership.  I look forward to playing a part in furthering the field

Watch Dr. Juliana Bonilla-Velez’s video Excision of Thyroglossal Duct Cyst and her Facebook Live, You’ve Matched, What’s Next?

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