Two medical oncologists recruited for Lethbridge

July 30, 2012

LETHBRIDGE – Alberta Health Services (AHS) has hired two new medical oncologists for Lethbridge, who will begin treating southern Alberta cancer patients in September.

Dr. Malcolm Brigden, who has been practising in Sault Ste. Marie in northern Ontario, will serve as the medical director and staff medical oncologist at the Jack Ady Cancer Centre in Lethbridge. Dr. Faraj El-Gehani, who’s completing his specialty training at the Cross Cancer Institute in Edmonton, will join Dr. Brigden as a staff medical oncologist.

Medical oncologists are doctors who assist in diagnosing and specialize in treating cancer through the use of chemotherapy and other therapies. They are the main health care provider for patients who receive chemotherapy and work with other health care providers in the centre in managing all aspects of a patient’s cancer care.

“Recruiting medical oncologists is a challenge right across the country, with only about 15 new Canadian graduates each year,” says Dr. Paul Grundy, Senior Vice President of AHS Cancer Care.

“The fact that we were able to recruit an accomplished doctor from out of province and retain an individual in whom we have invested many years of training in Alberta is a testament to the collaborative efforts of AHS Cancer Care and the South Zone medical leadership. We’re developing a cancer program in the Lethbridge area that’s able to attract specialists in wide demand. Our patients receive the very best care available while our physicians have a world-class clinical and research environment in which to achieve their potential.”

The Jack Ady Cancer Centre has been without a permanent medical oncologist since March, when Dr. David Holland retired after 23 years of practice. Impact on cancer patients in Lethbridge and the surrounding area has been mitigated by medical oncologists from Edmonton and Calgary who visit Lethbridge every week to help care for patients, and by the efforts of local health care providers who have provided tremendous assistance to the cancer centre.

The two new cancer specialists will work collaboratively with radiation oncologists on-site to enable the facility to operate as a comprehensive cancer centre, providing an expanded slate of cancer services, including combined chemo-radiation therapy for certain cancers.

“We now have family in Lethbridge, so I was very excited when I was able to visit for a one-month locum at the centre earlier this year,” says Dr. Brigden. “Although it will be a humbling experience to follow in the footsteps of Dr. Holland, who gave so much locally, the enthusiasm and expertise that I encountered persuaded both my wife and I that this was the place we want to be for the remainder of my professional career.”

Adds Dr. El-Gehani: “Having spent five years in Alberta, training to become a medical oncologist, I’m very happy to be able to stay within the province.”

With the opening of the Jack Ady Cancer Centre in 2010, Lethbridge became the first Alberta city outside of Edmonton and Calgary to offer radiation therapy. The Alberta Radiation Therapy Corridor is scheduled to expand further with radiation therapy services planned for new facilities in Red Deer in 2013 and Grande Prairie in 2015.

Once complete, the Radiation Therapy Corridor is expected to reduce the number of Albertans having to travel 100 kilometres or more to receive treatment from 28 per cent to about eight per cent.

Alberta Health Services is the provincial health authority responsible for planning and delivering health supports and services for more than 3.7 million adults and children living in Alberta. Its mission is to provide a patient-focused, quality health system that is accessible and sustainable for all Albertans.

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