Donation gives USask team more long-term stability on improving neurological care

Dr. Michael Kelly is leading a program to improve research and access to neurological care in Saskatchewan. -- University of Saskatchewan/Website

A one million dollar donation is allowing researchers at the University of Saskatchewan to continue improving access to neurological care, particularly to the north.

Kevin Knight, who owns the automotive dealer the Knight Group, made the donation in memory of a high school friend. This led to the establishment of the Knight Family Enhancement Chair in Neurological Surgery, led by Dr. Michael Kelly.

“It betters, I think, the care of patients with these particular issues, such as stroke, in Saskatchewan and allows people in the province access to cutting edge treatments and clinical trials,” said Kelly, the provincial head of surgery.

“That gives us a lot of stability from a funding perspective. When you have that baseline infrastructure in place, then you can leverage that to get more funding, more program growth.”

The project will focus on clinical trials for brain tumours, cerebrovascular diseases such as aneurysms and strokes, neurotrauma such as concussions, and pediatric neurosurgery – many of which require time sensitive care.

That’s where collaboration in other cities comes in.

“One of the hallmarks of health care is a quality of access,” said Kelly.

“Over the years, we’ve worked quite closely with, for example, the emergency medical physicians in Prince Albert to make sure that patients coming into the Prince Albert hospital have really good stroke mitigating therapy.”

At a sod turning ceremony for the expanded Victoria Hospital earlier this week, Mayor Greg Dionne said market studies show Prince Albert services about 190,000 people. He emphasized that an improved hospital is needed to serve all of the north, not just the city itself, which has a population of about 36,000.

Kelly said he’s also been part of developing a pathway for stroke patients in the province. Patients would be transferred to the nearest stroke centre, which includes Prince Albert, for diagnosis and treatment.

More advanced treatments are performed in Saskatoon and Regina.

“It’s quite a busy stroke centre with quite a few patients coming through there,” said Kelly about the Victoria Hospital.

“There’s a lot of engagement and a lot of interest in the Prince Albert medical community to provide this care.”

A news release said this work will also improve the well-being of patients by creating new surgical techniques and reducing recovery time.

“Together, we have the power to rewrite the story of neurological conditions and pave the way for extraordinary breakthroughs,” said Knight.

“By investing in the advancement of neurological surgery, we unlock the remarkable potential of researchers and clinicians, bringing hope, healing, and a brighter tomorrow for those in need.”

Kelly said the donation, which is over a five-year period, allows the university to recruit coordinators for clinical trials, doctors and nurses to the program, while supporting the existing team that have prioritized neurological care for decades.