Headshot of Dr. Ameer Farooq

Dr. Ameer Farooq is a colorectal surgeon who joined SEAMO in March 2023. What you might not know about him though is he has another passion: podcasting. Dr. Farooq is the co-host of the Cold Steel podcast with his colleague Dr. Chad Ball. Conversations range from clinical tips to the human side of being a surgeon. 

Dr. Farooq’s journey to being a surgeon has been a varied, coast-to-coast odyssey. “I did my undergraduate degree in General Sciences at the University of Alberta then five years of residency in Calgary.  In between 2017 and 2018 I made the trek out to Boston and did a Masters of Public Health at Harvard. I then completed a colorectal fellowship in British Columbia at St. Paul’s Hospital before working in Abbotsford as a community general and colorectal surgeon. I got a shout from Queen’s in 2022 to come to Kingston and made the move,” he explains. “Prior to this, I did some unique certificates. I have a teachers’ ARCT from the Royal Conservatory of Music in Speech Arts. Speech Arts is a formal discipline that’s combines prose, public speaking, and drama. Part of that education is reading the classics and learning from the great public speakers of the 20th century – that training still informs my perspective and interest today. It’s part of why I love podcasts.”

On his podcast, Dr. Farooq gets the chance to explore his clinical and educational interests, including surgical decision making. He describes: “I’m interested in how we become the best versions of ourselves in the operating room. This means exploring the really nitty gritty nuances of how the best surgeons tackle every single scenario in the operating room. It also means helping surgeons to become better decision-makers before patients even get to the operating room, with tools like decision-aids. Crucially, however, I’m interested in how we become the best versions of ourselves, inside and outside the operating room.” 

The growth Dr. Farooq has seen in his field is something he hopes continues for a long time. “I hope as surgeons we can move our training methodologies and performance markers to the next level and I want to be on the leading edge to see that happen. There’s so much more we could be doing to be better performers and I hope in 10 years, the way we train residents is completely different and more thoughtful and I believe that’s possible,” he says.

As a colorectal surgeon, Dr. Farooq’s weeks can vary between OR, endoscopy, clinic, research, and teaching. One thing that definitely drew him to Kingston was the robotic program at Kingston Health Sciences Centre (KHSC). “I hadn’t done any robotic surgery prior to coming to Kingston, and now I would have a hard time doing rectal surgery without the robot. The visualization, ergonomics and articulation make the operation so much simpler,” he says.

In the future, Dr. Farooq also has several research projects he hopes to get off the ground, including a same-day colectomy program. “With my colorectal colleagues and colleagues in Nursing and Anesthesiology, in the next couple of months we’re looking to get a program running where folks can come in, have their surgery and leave the same day. With well-selected patients, hopefully we can offer them a chance to recover well at home in the comfort of their own homes safely,” he explains.

What is exciting about his field is dealing with conditions that are stigmatized, Dr. Farooq outlines. “Because we have to deal with people and their anorectal issues or bowel function it makes us as a community more humble. Humans are one level beautiful intricate organisms with amazing symmetry, beauty and complexity, but on the other hand, human beings are just bags of blood and stool. That’s the conundrum and the paradox of being a colorectal surgeon – and seeing that complexity should make us a lot more humble. Someone has colon cancer and gets obstructed, all they wish for is to pass gas. It is a humbling thing to be a colorectal surgeon and I have to remind myself we’re lucky to help people and all of us are susceptible to these issues and problems,” he says.

The collegial group and supportive academic environment where huge draws for Dr. Farooq. “I’m lucky to work with such a supportive group. I think because of the way we’re funded, we get a unique opportunity to not just work on our academic projects not just off the side of our desk, but we have the dedicated time to pursue our interests and not just be clinically busy and proficient, but also try to make a difference in the lives of patients. I’ve grateful to have this opportunity.”

You can take a listen to the episodes of Cold Steel on their YouTube channel, visit their website, or send them an email with a podcast idea