With 50+ surgeons, the Division of General Surgery is the largest of the surgical divisions at the University of Alberta. A bariatric centre of excellence, world-class research, acute care surgery fellowship and Western Canada’s largest abdominal-organ transplant unit, are a few of the highlights of this extremely high-volume centre. The division also provides excellent teaching, research and clinical opportunities in addition to new generation technology and facilities.
The division has a long history of research in several areas including diabetes, hepatitis, and more recently bariatric surgery. It is still a worldwide leader in islet transplantation with ongoing work at the Ray Rajotte Surgical Medical Research Institute as well as the Alberta Diabetes Institute. Basic science work is ongoing in oncology with collaboration at the Cross Cancer Institute. Basic science research in transplant surgery is carried out in collaboration with the Division of Cardiac Surgery in the area of ex-vivo organ perfusion.
The division is heavily involved in both undergraduate and postgraduate education. The residency program has had a very positive Royal College external review.
The Clinician Investigator Program is available to all general surgery residents as a means to further their career goals, and is an important aspect of surgical education. All varieties of surgical research are available to a resident, including basic bench research to public health and the recent addition of a Masters of Surgical Education. A division surgeon, Dr. Jonathan White, has won national awards for innovation and leadership in education and is the co-creator of the ‘Surgery 101’ podcast series, which has been downloaded more than 5.1 million times in more than 150 countries.
Facilities and Technology
In addition to the six clinical care hospitals, the division’s surgeons have access to the latest research facilities, including Ray Rajotte Surgical Medical Research Institute, Alberta Diabetes Institute, Li Ka Shing Centre for Health Research Innovation, Centre for Advancement of Minimally Invasive Surgery and the Cross Cancer Institute.
High-volume, acute care general surgery is performed at all six regional hospitals, including Fort Saskatchewan, Grey Nuns, Misericordia, Royal Alexandra, Sturgeon, and University of Alberta Hospital sites.
The division closely collaborates with Northern Alberta sites, including Grande Prairie and Fort MacMurray. Stand-alone acute care services have been created at some sites and an acute care fellowship training program now exists in Alberta Health Services Edmonton Zone.
The creation of citywide groups of interest have the division looking forward in a very positive fashion. Instead of regionalizing to a hospital site, we have regionalized to specialized areas of care.
General surgeons from all over the Zone now work in collaboration in areas of interest such as breast, colorectal and trauma care. This allows for the best possible patient care within collaborative working groups – also optimizing research opportunities.
The trauma program is based out of both the Royal Alexandra and University of Alberta Hospital sites, and through ongoing recruitment it is working towards 24/7 trauma coverage services for the Zone. The Bariatric Program is recognized as a centre of excellence with outstanding clinical and research output.
The Abdominal Organ Transplant Program is the only centre in Western Canada to offer liver, pancreas, islet, kidney and intestinal transplantation.
As Chair of the Canadian Association of General Surgeons (CAGS) Global Surgery Committee, Dr. Vanessa Fawcett has been collaborating with the College of Surgeons of East, Central, and Southern Africa (COSECSA) to further surgical education in the region. A teaching partnership has been established with a hospital in Mombasa, Kenya, and Dr. Fawcett has participated in several teaching visits. In the coming year, other surgeons in the division will be contributing to this teaching partnership as well. Additionally, Dr. Fawcett will be an external examiner in the COSECSA exams in the year ahead. This follows establishing an exam-sharing agreement between CAGS and COSECSA, put in place last year. Dr. Fawcett was also invited to attend the first ever Women Leaders in Global Health conference at Stanford University and was a recipient of the inaugural CAGS Young Innovators award.