Cardiac Surgery Education

The Heart Institute is one of Canada’s top training grounds for new generations of young surgeons. The Division of Cardiac Surgery is accredited by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada (RCPSC) to train residents. Training requires a minimum of six years, following the completion of medical school. We currently have six residents and three clinical fellows in the program.

Residency program information

Adult cardiac surgery for Eastern Ontario and Western Quebec is performed exclusively at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute. As well, the Heart Institute receives referrals, which come from across Ontario and across Canada. We perform about 1,900 heart procedures annually. Procedures range from coronary surgery, valve repair and replacement, arrhythmia surgery, mechanical circulatory support, and transplantation. We perform over 500 transcatheter valve procedures every year. Pediatric cardiac surgery is performed at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO). Thoracic surgery, including both pulmonary and esophageal, is performed at The Ottawa Hospital (General campus). Vascular surgery and trauma surgery is performed at The Ottawa Hospital (Civic campus).

Residency program curriculum

The training requirements of the RCPSC in cardiac surgery mandate a competency-based medical education wherein residents have to achieve nationally accepted competencies. This is often achieved in six years of postgraduate training after medical school and culminating in a written and an oral exam administered by the RCPSC. The training is broken down into four phases as stipulated by the RCPSC: (1) Transition to discipline, (2) Foundations, (3) Core, and (4) Transition to practice. Training includes off-service rotations in cardiology, thoracic surgery, vascular surgery, trauma surgery, emergency medicine, anesthesia, and critical care. Additionally, six months are spent in congenital/pediatric cardiac surgery at CHEO.

The academic enrichment year is flexible in terms of content, location, and timing  within the six years of training. For some, this may be laboratory or clinical research; for others, this year may be used for further clinical exposure.  Ongoing evaluations include preparatory/mock written and oral examinations administered locally by the staff surgeons.

Residency program research

The academic enrichment year may include laboratory or clinical research. Cardiac research at the Heart Institute enables young scientists to engage in a range of projects. In addition to the academic enrichment time, residents participate in numerous scholarly works throughout their residency training.

Residency program seminars

A well-structured set of seminars are held weekly during the academic half-day. These include postgraduate rounds in cardiac surgery and related topics, cardiology rounds, cardiac case presentation rounds, journal club, M&M rounds, and UOHI and department of surgery grand rounds. There are almost daily multidisciplinary rounds at the UOHI that provide a wealth of experience and rich discussions around patient care. These multidisciplinary heart teams include aortic valve intervention, mitral and tricuspid valve intervention, revascularization, infective endocarditis, and transplantation. Residents are encouraged to present their research findings at national and international meetings, and it is suggested that they attend at least one meeting every year. Funding is provided for this as available.

Supporting documentation

Medical school transcript

Order from your registrar’s office.

Dean’s letter

Order from your dean’s office.

Reference letters

Three strong letters of reference from staff physicians are required.

Extra documents

Proof of citizenship must be submitted with each application since only Canadian citizens, permanent residents, or landed immigrants can apply in Ontario. One of the following documents must be submitted:

  • Canadian birth certificate
  • Permanent resident card (both sides of the card)
  • Record of landing, clearly showing the date of landing
  • Passport page showing Canadian citizenship

Selection criteria

  • Strong academic record
  • Demonstrated interest in the cardiovascular sciences
  • Strong letters of reference from staff physicians


Postgraduate program director
Talal Al-Atassi, MD, CM, MPH, FCCS, FRCSC
Division of Cardiac Surgery
Tel:  613-696-7293
Fax: 613-696-7118

Clinical fellowship director
Vincent Chan, MD, MPH, FRCSC
Division of Cardiac Surgery
Tel: 613-696-7294
Fax: 613-696-7302

Program administrator
Isabel Menard
Tel.: 613-798-5555 ext. 10606

University of Ottawa Heart Institute
40 Ruskin Street
Ottawa, ON
K1Y 4W7