Profile: Surgical Oncologist Dr. Usmaan Hameed

Dr. Usmaan Hameed is a new Surgical Oncologist at North York General Hospital, specializing in the treatment of gastrointestinal diseases. Dr. Hameed sat down with The Pulse so our readers could get to know him and his contributions to the hospital's colorectal cancer program.

Dr. Usmaan Hameed, Surgical Oncologist, North York General Hospital
NYGH Surgical Oncologist Dr. Usmaan Hameed

Only a handful of surgeons in North America are trained to perform Transanal Minimally Invasive Total Mesorectal Excision (TaTME). Why did you seek out this specialized training?

I was interested in minimally invasive surgery (MIS) throughout my residency and saw potential to grow MIS and laparoscopic techniques in the field of gastrointestinal oncology surgery.

Fortunately for me, I trained under Dr. Peter Stotland, a surgical oncologist here at NYGH, and Dr. Shady Ashamalla and Dr. Fayez Quereshy, all leaders in performing gastrointestinal surgery with MIS techniques. All three encouraged me to pursue further study, so in addition to my fellowship I spent eight weeks at IRCAD (Research Institute against Digestive Cancer) in Strasbourg, France. IRCAD is the world leader in MIS training. It was at IRCAD that I trained in Transanal Minimally Invasive Total Mesorectal Excision, TaTME for short.

What is TaTME?
It's a surgical technique that is particularly helpful with rectal cancers that appear in the lower part of the gastrointestinal track. Using the TaTME technique, a surgeon is better able to remove these very difficult to reach tumours while preserving a patient's muscle control. This means better outcomes for patients and a better quality of life; there is a lower risk that a patient would require a permanent colostomy bag. As well, recovering from a laparoscopic procedure like TaTME is significantly faster than traditional surgery, so patients can get home faster and possibly begin the next step in their cancer treatment earlier.   

Dr. Usmaan Hameed performing minimally invasive surgery at North York General Hospital.
Dr. Hameed performs minimally invasive surgery at North York General Hospital.

Have you shared this technique with your colleagues?

I have actually! We recently participated in the inaugural Canadian Congress on TaTME hosted by the University of Toronto. Over 200 surgeons from across Canada attended. I've helped grow the program alongside my former teacher Dr. Peter Stotland.

Peter actually was one of the surgeons who demonstrated the benefit of using laparoscopic surgery for removing cancer tumours very early in the GTA. Six to 10 years ago minimally invasive cancer surgery was not happening. Peter and I continue to support making laparoscopic surgery the standard of care for appropriate patients with colorectal cancer. Read a profile on Dr. Peter Stotland as well as the article Film critic gives cancer surgery rave review.  

Currently NYGH is participating in an international study to see if TaTME actually lowers the risk of cancer recurrence.

What's one thing about you that your colleagues might not know?

Ahhhh (pauses for a moment). Actually, there's one thing. I've consulted on Saving Hope, a Canadian medical drama on CTV.

What was that like?

Well, I was pleasantly surprised by how hard the show works at getting a script together. The situations or stories they come up with are pretty creative and unique but that's what makes the show entertaining. The medical words and processes are actually pretty accurate.

Did you always want to be a surgeon?

I played hockey and for one moment I might have imagined that I could possibly play pro. I was a goalie for the St Albert Merchants in the Alberta Hockey League, but I didn't quite grow tall enough to play professionally so I'm glad I had school to focus on.

When I was a kid I had very bad asthma and allergies. I was in and out of hospital quite a bit and I really looked up to the nurses and physicians who cared for me. Also, my dad had cancer when I was young and that had a big impact on me. Fortunately for my family, my dad has been cancer free for over 30 years now.

In medical school I initially thought about going into paediatrics, but I was drawn to surgery. I enjoy the often complex decision-making, counselling and immediate gratification inherent in surgery.

How do you like practicing here at North York General Hospital?

I love it. I actually did my residency and fellowship training here. I was fortunate that an opportunity came up for me here because North York General's culture and commitment to provide the best patient care mirrors my own values. I want each of my patients to receive the best quality care and that's happening at NYGH.


Dr. Hameed trained in General Surgery at the University of Toronto after completing a Bachelor of Science from the University of Alberta and graduating from medical school at the University of British Columbia. He was presented with the Zane Cohen Clinical Fellowship Award in 2015, which recognizes the clinical fellow in the University of Toronto's Department of Surgery who has made the most significant achievement in any of the domains of medicine. He is currently enrolled in the University of Toronto's Master of Science (MSc), Translational Research Program.

This article first appeared in the July-August 2016 issue of The Pulse.

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