Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Sharadh Sampath

Clinical Assistant Professor
Division of General Surgery

Why did Dr. Sampath pursue a career in medicine and more specifically surgery?

When he was 7 years old he wrote a letter to his grandmother telling her he wanted to become a surgeon when he grew up. His grandmother filled her days caring for her community in India whether she was rescuing animals, providing food for hungry children at school, or bringing food to municipal workers. He came across this letter later in life and it made him smile. Though at the time he wrote it he would not have fully understood what it means to be a surgeon, he realized that his grandmother’s kindness and devotion to her community was something he was inspired by even at an early age.

One of the reasons he pursued surgery specifically was that it provided a durable solution for patients. It was a profession where you could contribute to your community but additionally, you helped your patient so that they could contribute to theirs.

He is the Medical Director of the Richmond Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery Program and Founder of the B.C. Obesity Society. How has bariatric surgery transformed since he started practicing?

In the 70s and 80s, bariatric surgery had a suboptimal reputation. It was aggressive, often caused long-term disability and not supported by multidisciplinary teams. During his residency, another resident who had done some training in the United States in bariatric surgery shared during a 30-minute talk about the amazing results including curing diabetes and hypertension, lowering cancer rates, and increasing quality of life. This was the only time bariatric surgery and obesity was covered during his entire residency but he saw the potential impact this could have in BC. When he started practicing, Victoria was the only centre doing bariatric surgery – about 100 cases a year. When he joined Richmond Hospital, together with Dr. Nam Nguyen, they opened the Richmond Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery, working with a multi-disciplinary team of dieticians, nurses and endocrinologist to help care for this patient population. There are now about 450 cases a year in BC. Getting the resources and support for these cases has required an extensive amount of advocacy work, his article Weight bias – the last accepted form of discrimination is one such example.

Dr. Sampath recently co-founded a non-profit called ElevATE Society. He shared about their first project: The CultivATE food truck.

The ElevATE Society is an organization that promotes food security, training and employment of people from marginalized and underrepresented backgrounds. The idea behind the non-profit organization is to create profitable culinary social enterprise projects such as the food truck, and then give those profits back to local community charities and organizations. For the launch phase, the truck goes to hospitals and the profits go to their hospital foundations. The food is scratch-made and locally sourced. Once up and running, they will look to train and hire people with barriers to employment and pay them a better than living wage.

Follow the CultivATE food truck:

No matter what your profession is or where you live in the world, COVID-19 certainly has people reflecting on so many aspects of life. what has changed in his thinking or behaviour either personally or professionally that will likely continue?

Dr. Sampath tries to approach life with a mentally of gratitude. When the pandemic first started, his initial concerns were about how he would pay the mortgage and support his family and the impact it was having on his surgeries. He soon reframed his thinking when he remembered that the order of magnitude was so much worse for so many people in his own community and around the world. With (slightly) more time on his hands, he got involved with a local organization Chimo Community Services, a shelter for people escaping domestic violence and support for new immigrants. In turn, they helped him right back – by helping to launch ElevATE Society.

Aside from launching a non-profit – how does he spend his time when not at the hospital and doing advocacy work?

Dr. Sampath tries to carve out time to spend with his two young children – ages 5 & 6.

What else would he like to share?

He feels he has been so lucky in life to have been born healthy and to a loving family who brought him to Canada with free health care and education, a social safety net, less corruption than many places and clean water. He is very grateful and recognizes that there are so many people equally capable and hard-working navigating much different challenges just to stay alive. This drives him to support people from marginalized populations and firmly believes that nobody should be treated differently on the basis of skin colour, body type, religion, gender and sexuality.