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St. Michael’s endoscopy conference an international draw

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More than 300 health professionals and medical students descended at a Toronto hotel recently for a St. Michael’s Hospital-led international course on endoscopy techniques —considered the gold standard in endoscopy courses.

“This course is unique in Canada,” said Dr. Gary May, division head at St. Michael’s. “It’s the only GI course in Canada which demonstrates live procedures and is the first in North America and the second in the world to use this format of teaching.”

The 25th International Course on Therapeutic Endoscopy was hosted by Drs. Gary May, Paul Kortan, Norman Marcon and Gabor Kandel from St. Michael’s Hospital’s therapeutic endoscopy program at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel in Toronto.

The three-day symposium, which examines the latest procedures and developments in endoscopy, has become a staple of the hospital’s therapeutic endoscopy program. It featured live endoscopic procedures beamed in real time to the hotel and a satellite meeting in Vancouver. It was lead by a multinational team of experts, including those from Canada, the United States, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Japan, Egypt and India.

Experts demonstrated and taught the latest therapeutic endoscopy techniques, treatments and assessments as course attendees observed from two large screens in the Canadian Room at the hotel. One displayed the team conducting the procedure while the other displayed the procedure. Many procedures and techniques have been shown live for the first time, anywhere in the world, at the course, including endoscopic mucosal resection, which removes early superficial cancers.

“The live procedures provide learning in a way that you can’t get through lectures or videos,” said Dr. Kortan, a staff physician at St. Michael’s. “Videos tend to be edited and you only see the best cases.”

Live procedures were embedded around a series of in-house speakers, including Dr. Ibrahim Mostafa, from the Cairo Training Centre in Egypt, discussing endoscopic management and Dr. Florence Wong of the University Hospital Network in Toronto, discussing medical management.

“Organizing this course is a monumental task and takes about one year to organize,” said Dr. May. “We take one month off after the conference and then begin planning for the next one. Because our guests are prestigious and in high demand, they require one year’s advanced notice to book. It’s considered to be the gold-standard of endoscopy courses.”

The course, which first occurred in 1983, is the longest running of its kind. It officially became an annual event in 1987. The 26th course will occur at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel, in Toronto, from Oct. 9-11, 2013.

The course represents one of the major components of the therapeutic endoscopy program at St. Michael’s which is the only program in the GTA that offers a full range of advanced endoscopic services. Other hospitals in Toronto, Ontario and across Canada send their most challenging gastrointestinal cases to St. Michael’s for therapeutic endoscopy.

“Within the realm of therapeutic endoscopy, St. Michael’s is world-renown, because of our staff, the course and our fellowship program,” said Dr. May. “Our graduates of the fellowship program are highly successful —  we’ve trained roughly 110 individuals since the program began in 1983. The greatest joy a teacher can have is to see their students succeed.”

The fellowship program initially had one fellow at a time, but grew to two in 1988, three in 1989 and four in 1995 to the present. The growth of the program was due chiefly to the high demand that came from the reputation and success that the program earned over the years.

“Our fellows come from all over the world,” said Dr. Kortan. “Because of our program’s reputation, we receive a considerable amount of applications, which allows us to choose from the very best available. Many of those who train here now work in other hospitals in the GTA, Ontario, Canada and around the world.”

The Advanced Therapeutic Endoscopy Centre at St. Michael’s is one of the largest and most advanced in Canada, treating more than 14,000 patients a year. It is also recognized as one of the premier endoscopic centers in the world for training in advanced therapeutic endoscopy.

“The Advanced Therapeutic Endoscopy Centre was named as one of the world centre’s of excellence in endoscopy by the World Endoscopy Organization,” said Dr. Marcon, staff physician at St. Michael’s. “Our centre was the only one in North America to be recognized when the WEO issued its first round of honours.”

In early in 2011, the therapeutic endoscopy program received a $5 million donation from Wallace and Margaret McCain, of McCain’s Food Ltd, in honour of Dr. Kortan and his colleagues. Of that, $3 million will go toward recruiting a world-class physician-researcher who will hold the newly created Wallace and Margaret McCain Chair in Therapeutic Endoscopy. The remaining $2 million will support other initiatives within the department.

Endoscopy is the examination of the gastrointestinal tract — the esophagus, stomach, bile duct, pancreas, small bowel and large bowel — with a flexible videoscope. Therapeutic means the procedure can provide treatment (therapy), in addition to a diagnosis.



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