Windsor Star

Dieu recruits star heart doctor

It’s brain drain in reverse


Meet Dr. Nisar Huq.

The new star recruit of HotelDieu Grace Hospital’s cardiology department could serve as poster boy for Canada’s reversal of the medical brain drain to the U.S.

Huq, a highly trained and successful interventi­onal cardiologi­st, has the profession­al profile that the Canadian medical profession would have lamented losing just a few years ago.

Born in Ottawa and trained in Ontario and Quebec, Huq was eventually lured to the U.S. to pursue more challengin­g profession­al opportunit­ies there. The last five years, he worked in Michigan, Illinois and, most recently, Texas. Now he has returned home.

“ I always hoped to come back,” said the 44-year-old specialist, who trained at the Ottawa Heart Institute and Montreal’s McGill University.

“I enjoyed my time in the U.S. but I love Canada and I’m proud to practise here.”

He joins Dr. Roland Mikhail and Dr. Amr Morsi to give the local hospital three interventi­onal cardiologi­sts able to perform angioplast­ies.

Angioplast­y procedures are considered a less invasive treatment for patients suffering heart attacks than other techniques, such as coronary bypass surgery. Huq said he has performed “thousands” of the procedures in his career.

“We are proud to be able to attract someone with Dr. Huq’s expertise and impressive credential­s to our team,” said Dr. Gord Vail, hospital chief of staff.

Huq said he returned to Canada primarily because the profession­al opportunit­ies on this side of the border are beginning to rival those in the U.S. He cited the capabiliti­es, equipment and facilities now available at Hotel-Dieu as major factors.

The investment in new emergency room services, labs and the institutio­n of a local cardiac team made the move more attractive, giving Huq opportu- nity to fully practise what he had trained for.

Only four years ago, patients badly in need of the life-saving procedure were taken on a risky trip by ambulance to hospitals in Detroit.

Huq said the perils of that situation were brought forcefully home in November 2007, when CAW leader Rick Laporte was rushed to hospital in the U.S. only to be held up in the Windsor-Detroit tunnel after suffering a serious heart attack.

He said the resulting push for change from labour and the local health care lobby merged with a stiffening political will in Ontario to give new emphasis to cardiac care.

“At that time there was no real angioplast­y capability,” said Huq. “It was heavily restricted (in Ontario) and Windsor didn’t have any. I saw the problem from Michigan with the cases sent there. I thought it was very expensive.”

Huq said the cost of sending patients across the border was about $10,000 for each treatment and hospital stay. Multiply that by an average of 500 patients locally each year and the cost to the Ontario health care system was likely multimilli­ons of dollars across the province.

Clearly, he said, an investment was in order and he is happy to have benefited from that policy shift.

The cardiac team he joins includes Dr. Anthony Glanz and Dr. Syed Hussaini, who perform diagnostic catheteriz­ations. Along with Dr. Abdul Jina, the team now has six members. It operates on a weekday schedule, from early morning until early evening.

But Huq said he is confident that’s just the beginning. In August the Ontario government announced a further commitment to a major expansion of the hospital which will one day provide the space and resources needed for “24-7” primary emergency angioplast­y capability, which Huq described as “exciting stuff.”

“I work in a department ripe with possibilit­ies for the people of Windsor to get state-of-theart care on a par with what’s offered anywhere in Canada or internatio­nally. Support from the administra­tion, Dr. Vail, my colleagues, nurses and staff has been wonderful.”

Huq suggested it’s that shift in priorities that is attracting doctors to Canada.

“A number of my colleagues have moved back because of the changes in the health care system here,” he said. “And my understand­ing is that there’s a net reversal (of the brain drain) with doctors returning here. Twenty-five per cent of new doctors coming here are U.S.-born.”

Vail said it has been easier for the hospital to attract “strong applicants.”

He said the hospital can have as many as a half dozen highqualit­y applicatio­ns for a job that a few years ago they would have required a head hunting exercise to fill. “Many want to be involved and are seeking us out.”

He also agreed the brain drain seems to be reversing. Vail noted that three U. S.trained doctors have worked at the Hotel-Dieu emergency room in the past few years and there is the possibilit­y two more may come.

He said the reasons are many and complicate­d. Under U.S. President Barack Obama’s new health initiative­s the system there has become fraught with uncertaint­y. Doctors believe working in ER is more like working “in a business than a hospital,” with the added chore of chasing after insurance companies for fees.

Some, he said, prefer working in an environmen­t more supportive of patients.

Windsor hospitals have also benefited from provincial investment and also from the addition of the a medical school at the University of Windsor, providing more opportunit­ies for mentoring and support.

“The new medical school definitely plays a role,” said Vail. dlajoie@windsorsta­

or 519-255-6877

 ?? JASON KRYK/THE Windsor Star ?? Interventi­onal cardiologi­st Dr. Nisar Huq was recruited by Hotel-Dieu Grace Hospital.
JASON KRYK/THE Windsor Star Interventi­onal cardiologi­st Dr. Nisar Huq was recruited by Hotel-Dieu Grace Hospital.

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