Crohn’s and Colitis Canada has named gastroenterologist and IBD researcher Dr. Farhad Peerani of the University of Alberta “Physician of the Year
” – an award celebrating those who’ve made exceptional contributions to clinical care and a steadfast commitment to patients.
Dr. Peerani’s first move: to recognize others. “I’m blessed to serve in this capacity for my patients, yet it’s a team approach so I share this honour with my fellow physicians, IBD nurses, and administrative assistants,” he says.
The patients who nominated Dr. Peerani describe his approach as calm and unhurried, attentive and transparent. He says that he never forgets the human element of providing care, and tries to treat each person like he would wish for his own family to be treated. Most importantly, he listens.
“It can be natural for doctors to come with pre-determined ideas based on a patient’s previous clinical history and test results. However, it’s so valuable to hear their stories and to understand nuances that lead to better decisions, optimal care, and more engaged patients.”
He says that doing so helps patients feel ownership over their own health journey, and encourages an improved state of mental health – an essential factor in the quality of life for people who live with chronic disease. It is likewise essential for physicians, as Dr. Peerani recounts a key lesson he has learned: you can only provide great care if you take care of yourself first.
“Medicine is a challenging profession where you can be pulled in various directions as clinicians, educators and researchers,” says Dr. Peerani whose life outside medicine includes cooking, dancing and spending time with his wife and two young sons. “It’s taken too long for us to get to a place where self-care for physicians is discussed openly.”
As a clinician, he says he learns most when he can reflect on all outcomes of his approach – both positive and not – to continuously improve patient care. “This is where I’ve had the most impactful moments of my career as a health-care provider,” he says.
One of Dr. Peerani’s primary research interests is in older adults with IBD – particularly those diagnosed later in life. In fact, he was awarded a Crohn’s and Colitis Canada grant in 2022 to study immune system differences in elderly ulcerative colitis patients, adult ulcerative colitis patients, and those without IBD – and is continuing to recruit patients now.
“This is a patient population for whom we know very little about what drives disease and what therapies are ideal,” he says, adding that frailty – regardless of age – is another understudied yet evolving area in IBD research. “We must ascertain how to best risk stratify these Canadians, especially as people with any chronic disease are living longer.”
Patient partners, says Dr. Peerani, lend crucial voices and perspectives to IBD research – and should help shape the types of projects that receive funding. Their lived experience is paramount to the research community finding solutions to manage IBD, and helping clinician-researchers focus on aspects of care (e.g. managing stress) that may otherwise be overlooked.
When asked what he thinks is most promising for the near-future management of IBD, Dr. Peerani points to harnessing the potential of electronic medical records (EMRs). Alberta’s Connect Care system is a robust repository of data from over 4 million people – 60,000 of whom live with IBD.
“Should we use EMR functionality to build clearer clinical care pathways and empower patients, our ability to manage those with IBD will substantially improve,” he says.
Dr. Peerani becomes the seventh Canadian physician to be named Crohn’s and Colitis Canada Physician of the Year