New technology will drive excellence and support recruitment, says renowned surgeon
When Dr. Michael West, CM, OM, started his training in 1972, neurosurgery looked a lot different than it does today—and certainly much different than it will look tomorrow.
“At that time in Winnipeg there were no CT scanners, no MRIs, no radiosurgery, and no computers in medicine—all things that we take for granted today,” says Dr. West who retired in 2019. “When I started practising in 1982, we wouldn’t consider operating on complex neurosurgical problems in many elderly patients. The risks were too great. Today, at HSC, brain and spine surgery is being performed on people in their eighties who may be discharged home in a day or two. Sometimes on the same day.”
Such progress is possible thanks to technological advancements, HSC’s commitment to acquiring new technology, and the willingness of HSC Foundation donors to support such acquisitions when asked.
“We stand on the shoulders of giants,” says Dr. West of HSC’s progress over time.
Many would say that Dr. West is one of those giants. Among other accomplishments in his storied career, he played a central role in acquiring and deploying Canada’s first Gamma Knife at HSC in 2003. Using 192 beams of radiation, the Gamma Knife treats certain brain tumours with remarkable precision on an outpatient basis. No incision is required and there is minimal risk of damage to healthy brain tissue. Without the Gamma Knife, there would be no other surgical option for many patients.
Following the Gamma Knife, HSC continued to acquire additional minimally invasive equipment over time, including the intraoperative MRI (which creates images of the brain during surgery), the Varian Edge (a radiosurgery system that can target tumours elsewhere in the body with extreme precision), and a number of pieces of equipment in use at the Wilf Taillieu Thoracic Surgery Clinic and Endoscopy Unit.
“We need to continue with our investments in minimally invasive equipment to drive excellence in patient care. The Operation Excellence campaign allows us to do that,” says Dr. West, a campaign donor. “We can’t stand still.”
Aside from offering better patient outcomes and improved hospital efficiencies, a successful Operation Excellence campaign will attract leading talent to work at HSC. “I left HSC in 1994 because I couldn’t access the technology that I needed to do the cases I was trained to do,” says Dr. West, who returned in 2000 with a commitment from HSC to effect the provision of leading edge neurosurgical care. “If we want to make sure that today’s graduates and established surgeons will want to work at HSC, it is absolutely critical that we invest in these newer technologies.”
To learn more about the six-year, $100 million Operation Excellence campaign, and to make an online donation, visit OperationExcellence.ca.