Resident Spotlight: Celine Hounjet

Celine Hounjet is a PGY2 in the UBC Neurosurgery Residency Program.

When did you first realize that you wanted to pursue a career in Neurosurgery, and what led you to this decision?

I hold a degree in Neuroscience and embarked upon medical school with a general interest in the brain. However, my interest in Neurosurgery crystallized during my third year as a medical student, when I had the privilege of participating in my first Neurosurgery case. Witnessing a living brain was a profound experience that illuminated the unique responsibility of this organ in possessing an individual’s ability to engage with the world and who they are within it. This moment was pivotal in my journey towards dedicating my life to a discipline that I find endlessly fascinating, challenging, and deeply meaningful. The sense of duty that accompanies our work in Neurosurgery continues to be a profound source of inspiration for me with each case.

In addition to your medical and surgical training, what experiences and skills do you possess that you believe are transferable and enhance your capabilities as a neurosurgeon?

Having observed the experiences of my family and friends as they navigated the healthcare system, I am acutely aware of the importance of humanizing patient care. My Metis heritage from my father’s lineage has imparted a profound sense of responsibility to ensure the safety and comfort of my patients to the best of my abilities.  At times, it can be easy to lose sight of the fact that there is a person behind the surgical drape, but I consistently strive to reintroduce humanity into the medical care we provide. Every patient is a unique individual deserving of our care and attention. Furthermore, being the recipient of the Graham Clay Presidential Prize has bolstered my commitment to this ethos of patient care, and I am inspired to strive for excellence in surgery, ensuring that each patient I encounter receives exceptional care, honouring the legacy of a surgeon who made a profound impact on the field of medicine and the lives of those he served.

How has the supportive culture within your residency program encouraged you to pursue your interests in Neurosurgery?

I cannot overstate the support I have received throughout my journey. As a medical student, I benefited from exceptional mentorship from the program’s staff, and this support has endured into my residency. While I briefly harboured reservations about pursuing Neurosurgery, my mentors patiently listened to my concerns and engaged in open discussions about the realities of my doubts. They supported me throughout my decision-making process, displaying a genuine commitment to my success, regardless of my ultimate career choice. I only hope that I can offer the same level of caring and open mentorship to future mentees.

What are your future career goals in Neurosurgery, and how do you envision your residency program contributing to their realization?

My initial foray into medicine was driven by a desire to enhance healthcare access for Indigenous communities. As a Neurosurgery resident of mixed settler and Metis descent, I am currently exploring potential graduate degrees and research avenues that align with this aspiration. Although I am still navigating the specific role I will play, I am fortunate to have the full support of my program in pursuing this endeavour. Above all, my primary objective is to excel as a surgeon, and I am confident that this program will provide the guidance and training to help me achieve that goal.

How do you manage the demands of your residency program while maintaining a healthy work-life balance and pursuing personal interests or hobbies?

I am learning to integrate life’s little pleasures into my daily routine.  For example, I enjoy listening to audiobooks during my daily morning routine and walk to the hospital.  An esteemed surgeon once shared with me that some of the most challenging periods in his surgical career were when he convinced himself that he did not have time for leisurely reading. I have carried this wisdom with me throughout my journey and try to find ways to incorporate hobbies into my schedule when possible. I believe that interests outside of medicine make you a more well-rounded and ultimately, perhaps, an even better surgeon. Above all, I am exceptionally fortunate to have an incredibly supportive network of friends and family who adapt their schedules to spend even brief moments with me. Their unwavering support sustains me on this journey. Our program director frequently emphasizes that it takes a village to raise a neurosurgeon, and I believe that I have the benefit of a robust support system both within and outside the program, furthering me through this endeavor.