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Integrating surgery, research and education

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Integrating surgery, research and education


A new tool to predict cancer patients’ response to chemotherapy and develop tailored treatment plans is being developed by Western Health and University of Melbourne researchers. 

The rectal cancer response prediction after chemotherapy research is being conducted by the Artificial Intelligence (AI) Western Surgical Research Group. 

It will be supported by the appointment of Western Health’s new Colorectal Research Fellow, Dr Matt Wei. 

In this innovative role, Dr Wei performs senior clinical work at Sunshine Hospital and conducts translational research, which will culminate in the completion of a Masters of Research Degree from the University of Melbourne. 

Professor Justin Yeung is the Head of the Department of Surgery, Western Precinct, University of Melbourne and is a consultant colorectal surgeon at Western Health. 

He is driving research, education and innovation in the clinical space and beyond. 

Professor Yeung said one of the ways Western Health and the University of Melbourne was achieving this goal of integrating research opportunities into surgery was through a rare two year Colorectal Clinical and Research Fellowship. 

In Dr Wei’s case, it will allow him to continue his senior clinical work, alongside furthering his interest in rectal cancer research. 

Professor Yeung said by improving clinicians understanding of how their patients will respond to chemotherapy, clinicians can design a tailored treatment plan. 

“The traditional approach to treating cancer was to give everyone chemotherapy and surgery,” Professor Yeung said. 

“We now know that when it comes to many cancers, not all patients require the same dose and given the toxicity of this therapy, we want to tailor patient treatment to ensure individuals are not receiving more than they require. 

“Our team are using AI technology to develop a toolkit to better predict the way patients will respond to treatment and Dr Wei will support this project.” 

Dr Wei said he was attracted to this role because it allowed him to gain more colorectal surgery subspecialty training and achieve a Masters of Surgery.  

“This fellowship is ideal for surgeons who want to specialise in colorectal surgery and build their research portfolio with the support of an established research team,” Dr Wei said. 

“It also provided the opportunity to work in a high-functioning unit with Professor Yeung, a leader in our field.” 

Becoming a surgeon is a huge commitment, requiring more than a decade of intensive study and training, but Dr Wei choose to specialise in surgery after realising he had the chance to make an immediate difference to patients’ lives. 

“Two of the main reasons I wanted to be a surgeon was that I like to do things with my hands, and I really enjoy the immediate results that you can achieve for your patients,” Dr Wei said. 

Professor Yeung said one of his goals was to provide opportunities for clinicians like Dr Wei to expand their research expertise. 

“Being a great clinician is not just about treating patients on the frontline,” Professor Yeung said. 

“We want to develop surgeons who have a broad experience and a well-developed knowledge interpretation ability so that they can understand the latest evidence in the literature and stay up to date with the most current treatments to provide the best care to their patients. 

“During most clinical training, there isn’t enough time dedicated to the pursuit of research and Western Health in collaboration with the University of Melbourne is trying to bridge that gap.  

Professor Yeung is inspiring a new generation of medical professionals by demonstrating that it’s possible to be a surgeon, a researcher and an innovator- all in the pursuit of improving patient care. 

Together with fellow clinicians, he has also designed a revolutionary new App called Leaflet, which will transform the way culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) patients access information about their care. 

“Western Health has a strong relationship with the University of Melbourne, and we are collaborating and innovating to make a difference to patient’s lives. It’s exciting to see our research translated from the bench to the bedside across many disciplines.”