Faces of U of T Medicine: Dr. Vanessa Palter

Dec 16, 2014
Suniya Kukaswadia
Vanessa Palter and colleagues

U of T Medicine’s Vanessa Palter helped take surgery out of the operating room and onto the social web last month by live tweeting a laparoscopic right hemicolectomy, a colon cancer-related surgery, at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre. She spoke to U of T Medicine about what it was like to broadcast the procedure on the Twitterverse.

Name: Vanessa Palter

Program/year: First year surgical oncology fellow

Role/position: Live tweeter

What was it like live tweet a surgery?
I’ve never done anything like this before. I got to answer some really good questions from a range of people. For example, we had grade five students send us a few challenging ones. The tricky part was answering in a thoughtful way using 140 characters or less. Luckily I was working with a talented team who helped a lot.

What inspired you to participate?
Dr. Shady Ashamalla, my supervisor, was asked to participate and he approached me as well.

What did you find most exciting about the whole thing?
The most exciting aspect was being able to take something I do every day and make it accessible to the public. The operating room is like a secret lair—patients are nervous about going in for surgery. What’s it going to be like? What’s going to happen? It’s rare for people to follow along with the surgeon in the operating room. I think it helped alleviate fears about surgery.

What did you hope to accomplish by live tweeting the surgery?
We wanted to raise awareness about colon cancer, and show everyone how preventable it is.

What's your favourite thing about the Faculty of Medicine?
We have an amazing community here. People from all around the world share their unique experiences. I went to med school at U of T, did my residency here and I’m currently doing my surgical oncology fellowship here. U of T Medicine surpassed my expectations.

Photo: Dr. Palter (far right) with members of Sunnybrook's communications team.

Learn what our students are up to inside and outside of the classroom with Faces of U of T Medicine. From advising political leaders to providing care to Toronto’s most vulnerable populations, our students are making an impact on communities at home and around the world.

Do you have an interesting story to share? Contact Suniya Kukaswadia at suniya.kukaswadia@utoronto.ca


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