April 2, 2024

New surgical fellowship offers unique opportunity to aortic specialists

Advanced Aortic Surgery fellowship only second of its kind in Canada
headshot of Dr. Sultan Khoja, the first to train in Calgary's Advanced Aortic Fellowship
Dr. Sultan Khoja is the first to train in Calgary's Advanced Aortic Fellowship Image supplied

Calgary is home to a new, unique fellowship opportunity. 

The Calgary Aortic Program (CAP) began offering an Advanced Aortic Surgery fellowship to cardiac and vascular surgery residents a year ago. The program provides an opportunity for surgeons interested in becoming experts in tackling complex surgeries of the aorta, the largest vessel in the body.

Outside of the University of Toronto, it’s the only fellowship in Canada to integrate skills from both vascular and cardiac surgery.

“We started this unique fellowship a year ago and our first fellow is about to graduate,” says Dr. Scott McClure, CAP co-director. “The goal of this program is to create true aortic specialists.” 

Both cardiac and vascular surgeons are capable of operating on the aortic arch, descending thoracic aorta and thoracoabdominal aorta. However, treatment of these areas is often complicated and is better managed by collaboration between the groups. 

That’s where CAP excels. The group brings together surgeons from both specialities, cardiologists and interventional radiologists to offer individualized treatment options for patients living with diseases of the aorta, such as acute and chronic aortic dissections and thoracic aortic, thoracoabdominal and aortic arch aneurysms. 

According to Dr. Randy Moore, CAP tackles between two to three of these complex cases per month. 

“This group of patients is extremely high risk and need a very high level of expertise,” says Moore. “Having a collaborative model makes all the difference.” 

This model of care is relatively rare. Only a few such programs exist in Canada, putting CAP on the map. 

Dr. Sultan Khoja, MD, who recently completed a vascular surgical residency at the University of Toronto, is the first to train in the new Advanced Aortic Fellowship. He splits his operating room time between vascular and cardiac surgery and takes part in the Calgary Aortic Clinic, where these high-risk patients are assessed, diagnosed and treated. 

Khoja, who is part way through the year-long fellowship, was drawn to Calgary’s program because of its renown and his interest in the aorta.

 “The most interesting part of the body for me is the aorta, so I wanted to focus on improving my skills in this area,” he says. “I chose Calgary after speaking with colleagues – they all highly recommended for me to come here.” 

Khoja is pleased with the many learning opportunities he has had in the program. He especially enjoys the multidisciplinary approach and the chance to take part in complex open and endovascular aortic surgeries.

“Calgary also has access to some special devices that are unique in Canada,” he says. “This is a great opportunity for me to learn the latest in technology and surgical skills.” 

Khoja also likes the laid back, team atmosphere he has found in Calgary. 

“It has been a wonderful opportunity to work with great people, learn new surgical skills and see some of Canada’s top surgeons in action,” he says. “I would highly recommend this program to anyone interested in advanced aortic surgery.”

Learn more about this fellowship opportunity here