When Urologist Dr. Walid Shahrour first arrived in Thunder Bay in early 2016, he was shocked. Not at how cold it was in January, but by how underserved residents of Northwestern Ontario were for urological needs and how outdated the equipment was for providing care. “It was unbelievable,” he recalled, “and the opportunity was there to do better.”
Knowing how much people needed help, he developed a vision to make Thunder Bay an internationally-known centre of excellence for urology so that people from across the North had local access to leading-edge care. He knew this vision couldn’t be accomplished by himself and said, “No one can go it alone – it takes a team of people to accomplish such drastic change and to believe it can be done.”
As soon as he was able, he convinced his colleague, Urologist Dr. Hazem Elmansy, who was, at the time, practicing in Indiana, to join him. In May of 2017, the duo was reunited and quickly got to work putting ‘Thunder Bay on the map’ so to speak. “You need to believe you are worthy and show people that what you’re working on is important so they can get behind you and support you,” said Dr. Shahrour. “It took some convincing and a lot of hard work, but we are now seeing a remarkable difference in the Urology Department and it means we can offer our patients techniques that weren’t available even a few short years ago.”
Thanks to the doctors’ vision, along with the Hospital and community’s support, patients in Northwestern Ontario now have access to:
The vision to give advanced care to people in Northwestern Ontario has really only just begun. Both physicians have spent the last several years publishing multiple scholarly articles and presenting across the globe from the Caribbean to Asia and in between. Because of this international exposure, and subsequent recognition for the care provided here, physicians and fellows are lined up wanting to train in Thunder Bay. “We have physicians from Toronto, Winnipeg, and Montreal coming here to learn from us,” said Dr. Shahrour. Additionally Dr. Elmansy spearheaded the creation of a 1-year minimally invasive urologic surgery fellowship program, which is the first of its kind in all of Northwestern Ontario and similar to fellowships offered in ‘big centres’. Said Dr. Elmansy, “I have multiple international fellows who wish to come to Thunder Bay to work and learn with me. Thunder Bay is now a hot-spot for Urology and we don’t see it slowing down anytime soon.”
“In fact, our vision was to build such a strong and well-known Urology centre, that when we purchased our clinic office space, we actually bought a 5,200 sq ft building because we wanted the space to grow,” added Dr. Shahrour. “We are passionate about our dream to take care of the North.”
The vision doesn’t stop in Thunder Bay, however. Starting in August, Dryden residents will have local access to specialized urology surgery at their Hospital, with the hopes of also expanding further throughout the Northwest.
Dr. Elmansy (left) is one of only a few physicians in Canada offering HoLEP (Holmium laser enucleation of the prostate) which is surgery used to treat men that have an extremely enlarged prostate with a less invasive technique that’s more precise, meaning patients can go home sooner and have fewer complications.
Dr. Elmansy remarked, “Once people start to share in your vision, it gets really exciting. We’re at that stage now where our colleagues and our community are behind us and realize that we can serve patients here with the most up-to-date techniques so they have better care. That’s what it really comes down to – providing the best care we can, using our knowledge, and helping teach others to do the same. Without Walid (Dr. Shahrour)’s initial vision, none of this would have happened. I’m excited to see what lies ahead and how we can continue to provide even better care for our patients.”
Your support is essential to continue the vision started by Drs. Shahrour and Elmansy. Make your donation to fund essential equipment at healthsciencesfoundation.ca/Urology or call 345-4673.