Dr. Sharadh Sampath, head of thedepartment of surgeryat Richmond Hospital, represents a new generation of critical thinking in surgery: the doctor who embraces the broad role of patient-centred caregiver and physician as business person.
“It starts with identifying an unfilled niche, then developing partnerships with groups and advocates who can help you to get the resources you need to fill that niche,” he said.
Hippocrates, himself a champion of pragmatism and exactitude, would approve.
During training, Sampath realized that nobody in B.C. was performing bariatric surgery, despite the fact that the procedures were regularly done in most other parts of the developed world, including other Canadian provinces.
Colloquially referred to as weight-loss surgery, bariatric surgery includes a set of procedures aimed at achieving weight loss. This is accomplished by reducing the size of the stomach using a lap band, removing a portion of the stomach or rerouting the small intestines, also called gastric bypass.
“The outcomes are just so good,” Sampath said. “Conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, as well as obesity and others are all helped by this procedure. You can take care of four, five, six problems at once.”
So, why was nobody doing it here?
“I struggled to find a place that would let me explore the idea of starting a bariatric surgery program,” Sampath said.
However, he was undaunted in his belief in the efficacy of the procedure.
He collaborated with a provincial health economist who identified the number of patients who would benefit from the surgery, where they were, how much it would cost and what would be the expected return on investment.
“We had data from both Canadian cities and multiple locations in the U.S. that demonstrated the procedure’s cost-effectiveness,” said Sampath. “And we discovered we have over 100,000 patients who qualify for the procedure in B.C.”
The market research that supported Sampath’s belief in the value of the procedure was enough to convince Richmond Hospital to back the idea.
Sampath became the first surgeon to perform laparoscopic gastric bypass in the Lower Mainland. He also developed the province’s first multidisciplinary surgery program to treat obesity and diabetes.