In November the Fort Saskatchewan Community Hospital Foundation (FSCHF) was approached by Dr. Omar Farooq, a general surgeon here at our community hospital. He came to the board with an ambitious proposal: to fund three research projects that were to be carried out in our hospital. With the goal being to not only enhance healthcare at home in Fort Saskatchewan, but everywhere colonoscopies and hernia repairs are done.
The clear potential of these studies made the board’s decision simple, and it is no surprise it was a unanimous decision to award Dr. Farooq with more than $70,000 over the next year. While funding for projects such as these often does come from government grants and other sources, it is not uncommon for hospital foundations such as ours to donate to researchers. The University Hospital Foundation for example is very involved in funding academic research.
Dr. Farooq has been practicing at our hospital since 1997. He says he enjoys the personal atmosphere that comes with working here. Being able to know all his patients by name, be acquainted with all the other departments, and have a friendly environment is what has kept Dr. Farooq around for so long. He is a strong advocate for clinical research. “Research is the next level of what we do as doctors, to solve the same problem in the same way for 20 years, you have to think, is there a better way of doing it?” It is no surprise then that he never viewed our humble community hospital as a dead-end where academic research was not possible. It is true research projects are more commonly perused at larger research-hospitals like the University Hospital, but Dr. Farooq prefers to believe that “the academic surgeon is a surgeon of the mind, not of a place.” Therefore, refusing to be limited by a “small-scale” facility such as the Fort Saskatchewan hospital.
As previously mentioned, Dr. Farooq’s research consists of three projects. The first of which is a study to determine the effectiveness of a video explaining the preparation required to have a successful colonoscopy. Dr. Farooq explained that he started this project because with Fort Saskatchewan being a mosaic of people from many backgrounds, lots of the patients that came through his office had difficulty understanding what needed to be done in order to prepare for their colonoscopy. With each colonoscopy costing between $500 and $600 it becomes apparent that limiting the number of unsuccessful colonoscopies is a top priority for physicians. In order to limit these, Dr. Farooq and his team are now using this study to test the effectiveness of a video the team developed. To do this, they are comparing colonoscopy patients that were shown the video to ones who weren’t and assessing if the video helped increase comfort and successful colonoscopies. However, the team doesn’t want to stop there. He believes that “it seems like such a small thing [having a video for the prep] but if you search for it, you won’t find any kind of video guide on colonoscopies, and even if we don’t find [significant results], I know it will bring comfort to patients from any background.” The team is also looking to translate the video into more than 5 languages, as they believe this problem of misunderstanding preparatory procedures disproportionately effects those who’s native language is not English and believes that having the video—especially in many ethnic languages—will help address this.
The second study involves looking back at around 1000 patients to see how many patients symptomatic for colorectal cancer had a digital rectal exam at a family doctor, or an endoscopist. The group believes that less than 30% of these patients will have received an exam. The implications of this study are far-reaching as rectal cancer can progress in a short amount of time, and if that diagnosis is not made in the early stages (such as in the family physician’s office) the disease may spread because a simple examination was not completed. Dr. Farooq hopes that if his study reveals there are relatively few of these exams being carried out, the medical community—armed with knowledge from Dr. Farooq’s study—can begin educating these medical professionals to demonstrate the importance of the rectal exam in these first visits.
The final study again will be taking place at our very own hospital in Fort Saskatchewan and involves improving the way hernias are repaired. Dr. Farooq and his team are looking to test if a novel procedure for repairing hernias can replace the conventional method. This new procedure involves visualizing the hernia from inside the patient using a much smaller incision and laparoscope, and then using a plug to repair the hernia. If successful, this procedure will have an enormous impact on our community. With so many community members having employment that requires physical exertion and heavy lifting, being able to shorten the recovery time from 14 weeks to next to nothing will make a huge difference in these individual’s lives.
While there are likely to be many hurdles and delays along the way (which is common for academic research) Dr. Farooq hopes to harness and embrace these obstacles. “I always like to think that the same wind that extinguishes the candle can spread a wildfire.” The surgeon believes that while challenges may arise, they may actually lead to other discoveries and other research questions that can be explored later, or even cause for the aim of the research to change.
Dr. Farooq believes his research that the FSCHF is funding will have a profound impact not just on healthcare in Fort Saskatchewan and elsewhere, but also on the hospital itself. Showing that clinical research can be done at our humble community hospital will go a long way for putting FSCH on the map, in addition to the obvious benefits of enhancing healthcare.
To learn more about Dr. Farooq’s work follow the link here to watch a brief video of his description of it. If you, like us, believe the work Dr. Farooq is doing here at FSCH is meaningful and you would like to support the cause there are many ways you can get involved. You can donate to the foundation here, or you can donate your time by volunteering with the foundation. More information on volunteering with us can be found here. Finally, if you have any questions for the foundation regarding Dr. Farooq’s work or otherwise, contact information can be found by clicking here.