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Global Impact

Dr. Shawn Legall arrived in Canada to begin his fellowship in Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery at Schulich Medicine & Dentistry in August 2017.

This, however, was not the first chapter in the story of Dr. Legall’s relationship with the Department and School. It actually began five years ago when Dr. Leigh Sowerby, Resident Alumnus ('11) and a team of physicians began regular medical missions to Guyana – Dr. Legall’s homeland.

Dr. Sowerby met Dr. Legall on the second of such visits. The two physicians developed a relationship, and began working together even after the mission, with weekly skype clinical case reviews and teaching sessions.

“Once he returned to Canada, Dr. Sowerby made arrangements for me to join the resident teaching sessions by skype. And we did quite a few online sessions together. Every Thursday night we would meet for one hour and share and discuss cases,” said Dr. Legall.

Dr. Legall was born and raised in Guyana, and always had a strong interest in science. After serving as a cadet in the army and receiving an associate degree in pharmacy, he applied to medical school. It was during his internship that a new postgraduate general surgery program was introduced and Dr. Legall was keen to pursue surgical training. He completed the program and ended up working in neurosurgery for four years.

When an opportunity arose to join the Otolaryngology team at the Georgetown Hospital, where he was working, he jumped onboard and has been focused on the specialty ever since.

“It’s a small department at the Hospital,” said Dr. Legall. “But it serves as the main referral centre for all the districts across the country and manages the most complex cases. The Department is staffed, mostly, by foreign trained doctors as there are no locally training physician in otolaryngology,” he added.

Dr. Legall’s own supervisor had been working on the design of a new postgraduate program in Otolarynoglogy when Dr. Sowerby and Dr. Murad Husein, MD'96 arrived for their second visit in Guyana. In reviewing the design of the new program, Drs. Sowerby and Husein suggested that it would be beneficial to have a physician spend time at Schulich Medicine & Dentistry and be exposed to more modern techniques, investigative matters and clinical management.

“At home we don’t have a working microscope to see the finer anatomical details that are required for otology,” said Dr. Legall. “Using more sophisticated equipment and technology has made learning much easier. Spaces in the nose and ear are very small, and it is difficult for a trainee learn without being able visualize themselves what your preceptor is seeing. The monitors can give you the video while surgeries are in progress, being able to see things in real time, makes a big difference to your learning.”

Dr. Legall is exceedingly grateful for the experience with Otolaryngology, and has been struck most with the wide range of cases and the depth of procedures and care options available for patients. He says that it will greatly influence how he will care for patients when he returns to Guyana.

Being a member of the Department has also given Dr. Legall the opportunity to have discussions with his colleagues in London about knowledge transfer, and how to improvise and provide sophisticated care in a lower resource environment. He believes that the insight he has gained on the efficiencies of a larger department, and how to improve care to patients overall will prove to be invaluable.

“I have seen how surgeons and attendings practice, how they prepare their patients, and how they can do surgery in a proper and timely fashion,” he said.

It’s all a made a difference. And while Drs. Legall and Sowerby agree, that text books and technology could provide some of this information, they believe nothing replaces interpersonal relationships and hands-on learning.

When Dr. Legall returns to Georgetown Hospital, he will take on the role of Program Coordinator for the postgraduate program. He will be charged with getting the training program off the ground. At the same time, his own training and his relationship with the Department in London will continue.

Dr. Sowerby says that the plan is to work with the team in Guyana to support the postgraduate training program that will lead to trainees working independently. He believes that members of the Department, including himself, will continue to go to Guyana and support the training of young physicians there.

“I feel very privileged to do what I do, and where I do it, and as a global citizen, I feel a responsibility to do whatever I can to help others,” he said.