Dr. Shahid Ahmed (MD) is looking to establish a collaborative network of oncologists and encourage more research. Photo by Kristen McEwen
Dr. Shahid Ahmed (MD) is looking to establish a collaborative network of oncologists and encourage more research. Photo by Kristen McEwen

Oncology division head focusing on developing research, collaborative network

As division head of oncology at the College of Medicine, Dr. Shahid Ahmed (MD) is looking for ways to encourage more research with cancer patients.

“We’re looking to utilize our cancer specialists’ time without affecting patient care, and support them to become more engaged in research and other scholarly activities,” Ahmed said.

Ahmed is a medical oncologist at the Saskatchewan Cancer Agency, where he has worked since 2003. He was appointed division head within the college this year. 

He is currently collaborating on various research projects in gastrointestinal cancers in Saskatchewan with an ultimate goal to improve outcomes of patients.

His goal is to support oncologists (solid organ and blood cancers specialists) within the division to do research, without affecting the quality of care patients are receiving. 

“The reality is that the patients are the primary focus and you want to make sure that nothing affects their care,” Ahmed said. “However, quality patient care and better outcomes are tied to progress in cancer knowledge and we want to support our oncologists to collaborate and do more research.” 

Ahmed mentioned the possibility of establishing a research facilitator position for the division to assist oncologists with various aspects of research from writing an ethics application and grants, to establishing protocol for research projects. 

“If you’re a busy clinician and have limited or no support, it discourages people from doing research,” he said. 

Ahmed added that there are some resources already available for smaller research projects including funding through the College of Medicine Research Awards (CoMRAD) and the Saskatchewan Cancer Agency.

In addition, supervising summer students or residents with an approach of using existing data could support small outcomes-based projects which could eventually lead to larger projects and clinical trials with higher funding, he said.  

He is also aiming to develop a stronger collaborative network among oncologists, other specialists and health care professionals within Saskatchewan, eventually western Canada and across the country.

“People no longer work on their own; collaboration is a key thing in order to advance new knowledge, focusing on collaboration with basic and clinical science researchers in the various departments within the College of Medicine and beyond, including the Colleges of Nursing, Pharmacy, and Arts and Science. At the same time, our focus is to empower and strengthen existing tumor groups and improve access to clinical trials.

“That’s the key thing (for research), building partnerships, relationships and looking for support and mentorship,” Ahmed said.

New Medical Services team

Leading by example, the Division of Oncology has restructured to include a new Medical Services Leadership team involving Drs. Shazia Mahmood, Julie Stakiw, Eugene Sadikov and Sunil Yadav. Both the Regina and Saskatoon sites have new team leaders overseeing hematology, medical, radiation, and gynecological oncology.

Ahmed noted that his goals in his role wouldn’t be possible without the help of his team.

“Even though we have made some progress with early detection, and more effective systemic and local therapies, the outcome in most cancers is not as good as we want it to be,” Ahmed said. “There’s lots of room for new knowledge and research, and improve the outcome of our patients.”

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