Dr. Janine Eckstein, Interventional Cardiologist, received her medical degree in Internal Medicine and Cardiology at the University of Saskatchewan. She knew early in her career that she wanted to sub-specialize in Interventional Cardiology. The mentorship she received prompted her to apply for a fellowship. In 2018, Royal University Hospital Foundation awarded a Fellowship Training Grant to Dr. Eckstein to support her sub-specialty training in Toronto, Ontario.
Our Foundation’s education support enabled Dr. Eckstein to focus on her studies while living in one of the most expensive cities in Canada. She describes her two-year fellowship at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto as challenging. “During the first year I was on call every other night. I was putting in over 60-hour weeks, so having to work outside of those fellowship hours would have been exceedingly difficult. I was receiving some pay, but I was fortunate that the Foundation grant helped with the cost of living in Toronto.”
When asked what the RUH Foundation Fellowship Grant meant for her, Dr. Eckstein says, “It is about someone recognizing your potential and it is about believing this specialty will help people in Saskatchewan.”
“The experience I gained through my training at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto has allowed me to return to Saskatoon and work with a wonderful team here to offer an innovative valve replacement procedure called a transcatheter aortic valve implantation or TAVI. During the procedure one of the heart valves is replaced through the leg. It’s a lower risk procedure than open chest surgery, with a quicker recovery time and is ideal for patients that are elderly,” Eckstein explains.
Prior to her return, TAVI had been done for two years year in Regina. Since August 2019, Dr. Eckstein and the team have performed 35 TAVI procedures at RUH.
Recovered TAVI patient, Peter Stroh, describes the procedure as a reset button on his life. “I had the TAVI procedure on November 22, 2019. I was not a good candidate for openchest surgery, due to an open-heart, multiple-bypass surgery I had 10 years earlier. It was too risky to split my sternum again. The recovery time for this procedure is essentially instant; within hours I was able to walk and move about. After a short time, I was attending the LiveWell cardio program at the Field House; and, within a month I was playing hockey again. It was a miracle.”
Since 2005, our Foundation, through donor support, has invested over $1.3 million in 42 Fellowship Grants for young physicians sub-specializing in priorities identified for the province. The Saskatchewan Health Authority chooses fellowship candidates and, upon their return, their new skills may lead to the delivery of new procedures and programs at RUH and other hospitals. As a result, fewer patients have to travel out of province and can receive care close to home.
Three newly trained sub-specialists will return to Saskatoon to join Dr. Eckstein as fellowships totaling $90,000 were awarded in 2019–2020 through the inaugural Legacy Fund for Trauma Care Fellowship Program to Dr. Zane Tymchak in the area of Endovascular Neuro surgery; to Dr. Laura Sims for training in Upper Limb Orthopedic Surgery; and to Dr. Gage Watson in Angio/Interventional Radiology. They will return to Saskatoon to begin practice in July 2020.