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Vancouver surgeon co-author’s landmark textbook

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Dr. Sam Wiseman

The medical textbook Gray’s Anatomy came out in 1858 and is still a staple on medical bookshelves the world over. But it’s not that helpful when it comes to surgical anatomy, a gap Dr. Sam Wiseman noticed and was determined to correct.

“Four years ago, I became aware that there wasn’t a single go-to reference for surgical trainees,” said Wiseman, a Jewish surgeon who works at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver. “There was an educational gap that needed to be filled, so I contacted the publishers with my idea.”

There’s a crucial difference between regular anatomy and surgical anatomy, he explained. “Regular anatomy books focus on normal anatomy, the structure of the body as it exists in an undisturbed form. Surgical anatomy focuses on the anatomy the surgeon encounters during operations, when the normal location and orientation of anatomical structures is changed, and there are distortions in the normal anatomy that occur due to an underlying condition being treated.”

Wiseman recently co-authored Gray’s Surgical Anatomy, a 653-page surgical textbook that was published in November 2019. Working with co-editors Peter Brennan and world-renowned anatomist Susan Standring, they assembled contributions from hundreds of medical experts from around the world, including Wiseman’s father, Nathan, a Winnipeg physician who contributed to the section on pediatric surgery.

Gray’s Surgical Anatomy was three years in the making and Wiseman had to juggle his surgery and patient duties at multiple hospitals with his editorial work. “As the co-lead editor, I developed the structure of the book and made decisions on content, layout, proofing and reviewing of every chapter,” he said.

His duties also included selecting editors and contributing authors, and he contributed chapters on conducting surgery on the thyroid and parathyroid glands, which is his specialty.

The result is a one-of-a-kind educational resource and a reference for trainees and surgeons that’s already being snapped up from bookshelves the world over.

“There are lots of books about anatomy available, but until now, I’m not aware of any contemporary books that cover the entire gamut of the human body, head to toe, being utilized by trainees and surgeons as a reference,” Wiseman said.

“This book takes an educational, practical approach for trainees and surgeons and we review not just general anatomy, but surgical anatomy – the anatomy around common surgical procedures that surgeons encounter in the operating room.”

Gray’s Surgical Anatomy comes with additional online multimedia content, including multiple choice questions and answers, discussions of clinical cases, additional photographs and access to video resources.

Wiseman has been gratified to receive messages from physicians in New Zealand, Europe, the Middle East and all over North America, commending him on the usefulness of the book.

“My co-editors were fantastic to work with, as were all the other section editors,” he said. “I actually miss working with them on this project, and I’m already looking forward to the second edition. There’s always room for growth and development and just like any textbook in its first edition, this one will continue to grow and evolve.”

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