The right hand of a surgeon

Surgical fellows have all encompassing experiences serving as key members of the surgical team

Sitting around the kitchen table with her family, Dr. Ivanka Nebor heard about her parents’ lives as physicians in Ukraine. Their stories of science, of compassion, and of courage inspired her to go to medical school.

They also led her to found INgenius, a non-governmental organization, and first of its kind, whose mission is to promote evidence-based medicine among the medical community across the country.

As she neared the end of her surgical training, Dr. Nebor wanted to advance and refine her surgical skills and her world-wide search for the ideal surgical fellowship began. It ended after learning about the work of highly esteemed St. Joseph’s otolaryngologists Drs. Brian Rotenberg and Leigh Sowerby. The program in London immediately became her first choice.

doctors performing surgical procedure in the operating room
Dr. Nebor completed two surgical missions in cooperation with the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Razom for Ukraine, INgenius, Healing Children Northeast and the Ministry of Health Ukraine.

“The team has a very academic approach and I’m refining my surgical techniques, doing research and mentoring residents and medical students.” Dr. Nebor says of her St. Joseph’s fellowship experience. “The entire team has been incredible to work with.”

Fortunately for Dr. Nebor the fellowship position was generously supported by donors through the Foundation eliminating a major challenge that many international fellows face – funding.

Dr. Emil Schemitsch, Chair/Chief, Surgery, says that St. Joseph’s is internationally recognized for its surgical programs, and that reputation draws significant interest from surgeons worldwide hoping to gain specialized training opportunities. If they are from outside the province, they often need to self-fund their fellowship or find funding. It was a challenge the Foundation and community donors embraced.

To date, several fellowships in breast, orthopaedics, otolaryngology, and urology have been fully funded thanks to the generosity of many people from across the region.

“I’m ecstatic that donors in our community have embraced this opportunity,” says Dr. Schemitsch. “Fellowships are critical to our mission. Clinical fellows act as the right hand of a surgeon. Their experience is all encompassing – they can expect to participate in somewhere between 400 and 600 operations, see patients in the clinic and emergency room, complete two, three or even four research projects and be intimately involved in the training of residents and medical students. The output is profoundly impactful.”

As Dr. Nebor navigated her busy clinical and research schedule and the challenges of living in a new country, her heart was never far from home and the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine.

True to her nature, she felt compelled to help. She drew on the networks of physicians and organizations she had developed through INgenius and helped to organize and participate in two medical missions to Ukraine. While there, Dr. Nebor and the team performed dozens of surgeries for people injured as a result of the invasion.

It’s been a rewarding 12 months for Dr. Nebor and she’s incredibly grateful for the opportunity that was available to her thanks to donor support.

“I feel very lucky to be here and it’s wonderful to know that people are so willing to support future surgical leaders, such as me, through this fellowship – I’m grateful to them.”

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