History of the Program

Colon and Rectal Surgery at St. Boniface Hospital has its roots closely tied to the Specialty of General Surgery. General Surgery at St. Boniface has always had a very strong reputation and been a leader of the hospital. During the 1950-1970 General Surgery was led by Drs. Morley Cohen and Richard O. Burrell.  Dr. Cohen pioneered General and Cardiac Surgery in Manitoba. Dr. Burrell’s legacy lives on with the R.O. Burrell Surgical Education Research Facility, where our surgical residents still train. 

From the 1970-1990, the Department of General Surgery continued its excellence and leadership with the likes of Drs. Andre Molgat, Alex Vajcner, Karl Riese, Rudy Danzinger, and J.R Kirkpatrick.  The leaders of General Surgery, at that time, recognized the need for specialization in Colon and Rectal Surgery. 

In the early 1980’s Dr. Cliff Yaffe and Dr. Richard Silverman joined the Department of General Surgery after receiving specially training in Colon and Rectal Surgery from the University of McGill and the University of Toronto, respectively.  Drs. Yaffe and Silverman were Manitoba pioneers in the Restorative Pelvic Pouch Procedure used to treat refractory Ulcerative Colitis and Familial Adenomatous Polyposis.

In 2000, Dr. Benson Yip was recruited back to the Department of General Surgery after receiving his Colon and Rectal Surgery training at the University of Connecticut.  One of the mandates was the creation of a formal Colon and Rectal Surgery Service that was established in the mid-2000.  He subsequently became the Service Head for the Colon and Rectal Service (also known as B service) and the Section of General Surgery at St. Boniface.

In the early 2010’s we were fortunate to have Drs. David Hochman and Jason Park join our Colon and Rectal Service.  Dr. Hochman received his Colon and Rectal Surgery training at the Mayo Clinic and is one of the pioneers in Canada in Transanal Endoscopic Microsurgery (TEM).  Dr. Park receiving his Surgical Oncology Training at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York. Dr. Park’s forte included surgical education and research for which he was nationally recognized. He was also instrumental in creating a synoptic operating report for colorectal cancers, that is now used extensively in Manitoba. 

In 2014, a Colon and Rectal Surgery Fellowship was established at St. Boniface Hospital with the University of Manitoba. Dr. Katerina Neumann was our first clinical fellow.  Dr. Yip served as the Program Director from 2014-2020.

In 2016 Dr. Ramzi Helewa was recruited to our Colon and Rectal Service. He received his Colon and Rectal Surgery training at the University of Ottawa.  Dr. Helewa was instrumental in successfully transitioning the clinical training fellowship to a Royal College Accredited Residency Program.  In July 2020 Dr. Jamie Holden became our first Royal College Fellow, which is now a two-year fellowship.  In 2020, Dr. Helewa subsequently became the Program Director; Head of Colorectal and General Surgery at St. Boniface. 

With subsequent retirements, we have we successfully recruited to our Colorectal Service.  In 2020, Dr. Reagan Robertson joined our group after receiving her Colon and Rectal Surgery training at the University of British Columbia. Dr. Robertson received specialized training in TaTME, providing an additional surgical modality for our rectal cancer patients. 

In 2021 we successfully recruited back Drs. Eric Hyun and Farhana Shariff to our service.  Dr. Hyun received his Colon and Rectal Surgery training at the University of Manitoba. Dr. Hyun has a special interest in surgical education/research and holds a Ph.D. from the University of Calgary. Dr. Shariff received her Surgical Oncology Fellowship from the University of Toronto. She has a special interest in surgical education and has worked closely with the Royal College of Canada in the area of Competency by Design (CBD) in surgical training.

Over the last seventy years the history of Colon and Rectal Surgery has evolved to strong enduring surgical specialty at St. Boniface Hospital. It is committed to surgical excellence and providing the best treatments for all our colorectal patients.  Through our General Surgery and Colorectal Surgery training fellowships we are committed to research, education and training the next generation of surgeons. It is said, history often repeats itself. From a Colon and Rectal Surgery perspective it would appear the excellence and leadership in surgery continues and the future appears bright!