Resident Spotlight: Khalil Merali

Dr. Khalil Merali is a PGY4 in the UBC General Surgery Residency program. He is also currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Engineering at the John Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering.

Surgical Residency in the Pandemic

Khalil’s experience as a surgical resident during the COVID-19 pandemic was an eye-opening experience for him. He reflected on how the pandemic accelerated a lot of the scientific work being done in that field and how many clinicians, including his team, had to be creative and innovate to meet the ever-changing situation. 

“The lack of access to certain equipment during the pandemic meant we had to repurpose and salvage, and that’s really what got me started on this path,” he says.

This led him to start thinking about the importance of the clinician’s role in the design process of surgical equipment.

Surgical Innovation & Engineering

Soon after he started thinking about engineering and innovation, Khalil took part in the first annual Surgical Innovation Week: A week of interactive lectures and design sessions where surgical residents take on real-world surgical challenges and present their solutions at the end of the week in pitch competitions.

Khalil added that Dr. Harvey Hawes and Dr. Morad Hameed, the two trauma surgeons who started Surgical Innovation Week, were also guiding forces in his journey and encouraged him to pursue his Master’s in Engineering.

“Some might consider it a bit non-traditional for a general surgery resident, but I received a lot of support when I told everyone about my plan,” he shared.

Besides Drs. Hawes and Hameed, Khalil also shared that another point of strength for him was the open-minded and supportive culture in his residency program, specifically mentioning their program directors, Drs. Tracy Scott and Ahmer Karimuddin, who he thanks for not only allowing but actively encouraging them to pursue interests that are more out-of-the-box during their residency.

Residency: It takes a province

When asked about his favourite place in BC among the many sites he’s visited for his rotations, Khalil said he couldn’t pick just on. Instead, he said that he enjoyed getting to getting to know the general surgery community in BC and loves that he has been able to learn from so many mentors from both community sites and academic centres throughout the province during his residency.

He also raved about his amazing co-residents, who have been not only his partners in surgery but also his friends and constant companions when exploring the beautiful outdoors here in BC.

Reflecting on the culture within the division, Khalil spoke of everyone’s mindset of how to keep improving and not being set in their ways. A real catalyst for change, Khalil is also an active member of the division’s Cultural Safety Committee.

What’s next for Khalil?

After finishing his Master’s degree in Engineering, Khalil hopes to continue working on surgical innovation projects and joining design labs. He also hopes to someday pursue a fellowship in Trauma and Acute Care Surgery after finishing his final year of residency. At the moment, however, Khalil just got back from Kenya running a study to test a novel platform that his team developed for laparoscopic skills training with residents across the country. His experience training in community and rural sites in his residency and his passion for engineering has inspired an interest in innovation for low-resource settings in Khalil, which he was now able to apply in his recent project in Kenya.