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Jonathan White

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I am the University of Alberta’s first Tom Williams Endowed Chair in Surgical Education. I am also a Consultant Surgeon at the Royal Alexandra Hospital, Edmonton with interests in general, colorectal and abdominal/pelvic oncological surgery. I hold appointments at the University of Alberta as an Associate Professor in the Department of Surgery and as an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Educational Psychology (Faculty of Education) and the Department of Oncology. Since January 2007, I have also served as the Senior Director for Undergraduate Education at the Department of Surgery. I am active in surgical and medical education practice and research, and have served as a McCalla Professor and won the Provost's Award and the John Provan Award. I co-authored the ‘Surgery 101’ series of podcasts covering common topics in Surgery, which as of May 2012 have been downloaded more than 500,000 times by students and educators in more than 100 countries worldwide. You can access Surgery 101 and my list of publications at: (these links are also at the bottom of this page on the right)

Jonathan White

Surgical Education, Medical Education

  • Tom Williams Endowed Chair in Surgical Education
  • Associate Professor, Department of Surgery
  • Senior Director for Undergraduate Education, Department of Surgery

  • Assessment in medical education
  • The use of online education
  • The use of qualitative methodology to explore surgical education and practice.

  • SURG 546, SURG 556 (FOMD)

  • Tom Williams Endowed Chair in Surgical Education, University of Alberta, 2011-
  • Winner of the Provost’s Award for Early Achievement of Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, University of Alberta, 2010
  • Recipient of the McCalla Professorship for Research in Teaching, University of Alberta, 2010-11
  • Winner of the John Provan Outstanding Canadian Surgical Educator Award, 2010-11. (
  • Recipient of the Excellence in Humanism Award, Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Alberta, 2010
  • Excellence in Small Group Teaching (Discovery Learning), University of Alberta, 2008 and 2009
  • Top Ten Teacher , Department of Surgery 2007-2011

Subject areas and related deposits

  • Biliary obstruction

    • The probiotic bacterium Lactobacillus plantarum species 299 reduces intestinal permeability in experimental biliary obstruction

      Aims: Extrahepatic biliary obstruction is associated with the failure of intestinal barrier function, allowing bacteria and other substances from the intestine to enter the circulation and initiate a systemic inflammatory response, causing impairment of organ function. Probiotic bacteria have been shown to have beneficial effects on intestinal barrier function in other conditions, but their effects have never been studied in biliary obstruction. Methods and Results: This study examined the effects of enteral administration of Lactobacillus plantarum species 299 (LP299) in oatmeal fibre compared with sterile oatmeal fibre in water or water alone in an animal model of biliary obstruction. Administration of LP299 was associated with reduced intestinal permeability compared with sterile oatmeal alone (0Æ262 ± 0Æ105% vs 0Æ537 ± 0Æ037%, P = 0Æ019, percentage excretion of 14Carbon), but there was no evidence of reduced endotoxin exposure or blunting of the systemic inflammatory response. Animals receiving sterile oatmeal fibre alone also failed to develop the hyperpermeability after biliary obstruction seen in animals receiving water only (0Æ512 ± 0Æ05% vs 0Æ788 ± 0Æ18%), suggesting that oatmeal itself may have some beneficial effects on intestinal barrier function. Conclusion: Enteral administration of the probiotic bacterium LP299 reduces intestinal hyperpermeability associated with experimental biliary obstruction. Significance and Impact of the Study: This study provides insight to direct further work into the modulation of intestinal barrier function by probiotic bacteria.

  • Colorectal cancer

  • Medical schools

    • "A Chance To Show Yourself" - How do Applicants Approach Medical School Admission Essays?

      Background: Although essay questions are used in the admissions process in many medical schools, there has been little research on how applicants respond to essay questions. Aims: The purpose of this study was to explore how applicants to medical school approach essay questions used in the selection process. Methods: Qualitative analysis was conducted on 240 randomly selected essays written by individuals applying to a single Canadian medical school in 2007 using a modified grounded theory approach to develop a conceptual framework which was checked in interviews with applicants. Results: Three core variables were identified: ‘‘balancing service and reward,’’ ‘‘anticipating the physician role,’’ and ‘‘readiness.’’ We described the overall approach of applicants as ‘‘taking stock,’’ writing about their journeys to the selection process, their experiences of the process itself, and about their anticipated future in medicine. Conclusion: Our findings suggest a disconnect between the approach of the applicants (to ‘‘show themselves’’ and be selected as individuals) and the stated intent of the process (to select applicants based on ‘‘objective’’ criteria). Our findings raise important questions about how applicants represent themselves when applying for medical school and suggest that it is important to understand the applicant’s point of view when developing questions for selection processes.

  • Surgical education

    • Exploring Surgeons' Perceptions of the Role of Simulation in Surgical Education: A Needs Assessment

      Background: The last two decades have seen the adoption of simulation-based surgical education in various disciplines. The current study’s goal was to perform a needs assessment using the results to inform future curricular planning and needs of surgeons and learners. Methods: A survey was distributed to 26 surgeon educators and interviews were conducted with 8 of these surgeons. Analysis of survey results included reliability and descriptive statistics. Interviews were analyzed for thematic content with a constant comparison technique, developing coding and categorization of themes. Results: The survey response rate was 81%. The inter-item reliability, according to Cronbach’s alpha was 0.81 with strongest agreement for statements related to learning new skills, training new residents and the positive impact on patient safety and learning. There was less strong agreement for maintenance of skills, improving team functioning and reducing teaching in the operating room. Interview results confirmed those themes from the survey and highlighted inconsistencies for identified perceived barriers and a focus on acquisition of skills only. Interview responses specified concerns with integrating simulation into existing curricula and the need for more evaluation as a robust educational strategy. Conclusion: The findings were summarized in four themes: 1) use of simulation, 2) integration into curriculum, 3) leadership, and 4) understanding gaps in simulation use. This study exemplifies a mixed-methods approach to planning a surgical simulation program through a general needs assessment.