Dr. Laura Hopkins (MD) is a gynecologic oncologist and professor in USask’s College of Medicine. (Photo: Submitted)

Hopkins advancing surgical care

For cancer patients, a quick recovery after surgery is an essential part of their treatment.

By Kristen McEwen

Gynecologic oncologist and Division of Oncology professor Dr. Laura Hopkins (MD) of the University of Saskatchewan’s (USask) College of Medicine is starting an enhanced recovery after surgery program for patients with gynecological cancers, with help from a $100,000 Women Leading Philanthropy Grant from the Royal University Hospital (RUH) Foundation.

“Advancing surgical care for women with cancer is one of the first things that will be beneficial for the provincial gynecologic oncology program,” Hopkins said.

Originally from Ontario, Hopkins had been working in Ottawa for 17 years before she was recruited in 2019 to lead the province-wide gynecologic oncology program from Saskatoon.

One of the biggest recovery issues patients face after surgery is risk of infection. For cancer patients, an infection can lead to delays in treatment options including chemotherapy and radiation treatments.

“We have to avoid delays in care caused by extended recovery from complications of surgery. Post-operative delays in chemotherapy and radiation are associated with less than optimal cancer outcomes,” Hopkins said.

“When we provide care, we need to do as much as we can preventatively, to help assure a normal and healthy recovery from surgery with as few complications as possible,” she added.

Hopkins’ program will follow guidelines laid out by Enhanced Recovery After Surgery (ERAS), a global society of health-care professionals that focus on evidence-based methods, research and audit to improve surgical care and recovery. The group released guidelines in 2016 that include 16 elements of care—from pre-operative skin prep to discharge planning—to ensure patients are provided with optimized peri-operative care.

ERAS provides a comprehensive framework to make this possible. Health care teams can enhance surgical recovery outcomes by taking extra steps for care before, during and after surgery.

For example, having the patient start their own skin prep by washing with antibacterial soap can help reduce the chance of infection, Hopkins said. Other perioperative care steps include optimizing antibiotic delivery, keeping the patient warm and screening for and maintaining normal blood sugars in diabetic patients. These steps work together to dramatically reduce the risk of infection.

While some of the elements in the guidelines are already incorporated in current hospital care, the RUH grant will help Hopkins implement all 16 recommended elements. The funding has also allowed for the hiring of a support staff member to help conduct the project and collect surgical-outcomes data for patients.

“I’m really happy to have received the grant,” Hopkins said. “I had hoped to implement these recommendations at some point when I arrived (in Saskatchewan), but this brings it right to the front of the line.”

The Women Leading Philanthropy Grant supports initiatives and projects led by female physicians, practitioners and researchers at the Royal University Hospital who are leading transformative advancement in health care.


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