Dr. Sundeep Toor comes home to make a difference

By Bill Hodgins

As a mother of two, Elaine Lee was fairly familiar with the birthing experience. She knew — at least to a point — what she could expect with her third delivery last September. Her second child had been born healthy after some complications and, as it turned out, she was about to experience that same bit of trauma. This time, however, it was a bit more serious. But thanks to Markham Stouffville Hospital’s new interventional radiology program, she and the family’s newest member are doing well today.

As with her second child, Ms Lee was unable to deliver her placenta. When an initial procedure to address the problem was unsuccessful, physicians suggested a hysterectomy. Understanding Ms Lee’s reluctance to agree to the surgery, her health care team presented another option: bringing in Dr. Sundeep Toor to do an embolization procedure.

Dr. Toor is the head of the hospital’s new interventional radiology program, created just for situations like Ms Lee’s. “I was the first patient at the hospital to have this procedure,” Ms Lee says. “They were just preparing the room for this emergency procedure when I asked him if he had ever done this before. He said he had, just not at this hospital.”

Ms Lee was able to watch the whole procedure and was impressed by the team’s work. “I was really lucky they were able to do that. It was pretty scary thinking I would need the hysterectomy. It’s just so permanent.” Today, she says, everything with her is back to normal. Her children are healthy and she’s just so appreciative of the care she received at Markham Stouffville Hospital.

It was a progressive move for the hospital to introduce the IR program last fall. Interventional radiologists are board-certified physicians who specialize in minimally invasive, targeted treatments. They offer in-depth knowledge of the least invasive treatments available, coupled with diagnostic and clinical experience across all specialties. In 2014, Dr. Toor was hired by Markham Stouffville Hospital to lead the new interventional radiology program, joining MSH from the University Health Network where he was completing a fellowship in vascular and interventional radiology. It was a bit of a homecoming for the physician. “I grew up in the north Scarborough and Markham area so this is sort of my background,” he says. “I’ve a lot of friends and family here still. Markham is very dear and close to my heart.”

Dr. Toor attended medical school in the GTA before leaving for a residency in Ottawa. He chose to return to Toronto to finish his specialty training. When he learned of the interventional radiology plans for MSH, he didn’t hesitate in making contact. “I was looking for an IR position and they were looking to bring in someone who specializes in this,” he says. “I saw it was an amazing opportunity.” He chose MSH over other opportunities because of his familiarity with the region and the hospital’s vision to provide innovative and leading edge care. “It was a good opportunity to come back to the community I was very familiar with… one where I still had a lot of close connections.”

He says the program has come a long way since Ms Lee’s procedure in September. It started slowly with a deliberate step-by-step process focusing mainly on what he considers basic procedures. As it moves forward, the team will be taking on more advanced interventions. “Being the only specialist in IR, it’s taking a bit of time to build the program. We’re still getting people on board, making them aware of what we are doing, getting them to refer more patients.” He says there are many different types of surgeries where an IR can help shorten a person’s stay—procedures that, in the past, would have been more invasive and require a longer period for healing. He says many patients will benefit from MSH’s foresight in bringing the program to the community. These procedures were available before, he says, but not at Markham Stouffville Hospital. In the past, these same patients had to travel to other medical centres.

Now, he says, MSH can treat everything from cancerous tumours in the uterus to bleeding stomachs with just a small nick of an incision instead of more invasive surgeries resulting in large scars and longer recovery times. And he sees it only getting better. Five years from now, he envisions the unit with more space and more staff. “I can see us providing a lot more than what we’re doing right now.” And that, he says, will continue to benefit the whole community.

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