Dr. Myp Sekhon: Leading the Forefront of Neurocritical Care at VGH


Dr. Myp Sekhon, photographed at VGH © Courtesy of VGH + UBC Hospital Foundation


A young woman visits the hospital as she slowly loses feeling in her arm, then is suddenly rushed to the ICU as she falls unconscious, unaware of the near-impossible journey to recovery that awaits her. A moose crashes into a moving truck, breaking the body of a driver in Prince George. A youth’s heart stops beating after a car accident, preventing his brain from receiving vital oxygen.

At Vancouver General Hospital (VGH), each of these patients not only survived their unique and complex conditions but are thriving today. And the one thing they have in common is they received care from a specialized team dedicated to managing patients with brain injuries, led by Dr. Myp Sekhon, an ICU physician at VGH.

The Heart of a Healer

Dr. Sekhon is a clinician-scientist at VGH who spends his days providing expert care to those in need and conducting life-saving and innovative research. Between time in the ICU, working firsthand with patients suffering from a vast array of conditions, to the bench side, researching how to improve the future of health care, Dr. Sekhon is a special mind.

Building off his training at the University of Cambridge, Dr. Sekhon has led the development of an internationally recognized care program in collaboration with Dr. Peter Gooderham, a VGH neurosurgeon. This team incorporates the use of the donor-funded Brain Bolt—a cutting-edge brain monitoring device that utilizes catheters to feedback vital second-to-second information to the medical team.

This collaboration between intensive care physicians and neurosurgeons at VGH positions the neurocritical care program to be at the forefront in Canada and beyond.

And no one knows that better than his own patients.

World-Leading Care Saves Young Woman

It was March 28, 2018, when then-21-year-old Mary Salas woke up with her right hand feeling numb. She got out of bed and meandered into the living room, shaking her hand.

Mary told her mom about it but was told she must have slept on it funny.

That made sense, Mary thought, and went about her day. She had a final exam that evening, and she decided to keep her mind focused on that.

Mary didn’t know it then, but she would never make it to that exam. Instead, she would be fighting for her life in an ICU bed at VGH, suffering from severe brain inflammation and seizures that could not be controlled with medication. She would undergo neurosurgery and be part of a complex and coordinated effort to unmask the rare disease that was plaguing her.

“When Mary first presented on the ward, she started having seizures because of how inflamed her brain was,” says Dr. Sekhon. “So, we put Mary into a medically induced coma and on life support to buy her time while we tried to figure out the cause.”

In an effort to diagnose Mary’s condition, neuro-radiologists conducted MRI scans, and neurosurgeons implanted the donor-funded Brain Bolt. The epilepsy team performed EEGs and utilized 24-hour readings of her brain to feed information to the neurointensivists in the ICU, all while neurologists were working on determining the cause.

“In my experience, this was the most severe case of brain inflammation that any of us had ever seen, full stop,” says Dr. Sekhon.

A day later, they had their answer—Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis, a rare auto-immune disease. Simply put, Mary’s immune system was mistakenly attacking healthy nerve coatings in her brain, causing the extreme swelling and symptoms she was experiencing.

Now that they had their answer, the medical team knew how to fight back. It took time, but today, Mary is happy, healthy, and improving every day.

“There really wasn’t any one person who made the breakthrough, rather it was a culmination of every single team at VGH,” says Dr. Sekhon. “I can honestly say there they are only a handful of hospitals internationally that could have provided the same level of collaborative and expert care.”

One of Many

Mary’s story is one of many shared by Dr. Sekhon’s patients. One of complexity and danger. Where the odds were seemingly stacked against them, yet with the healing hand of Dr. Sekhon and his expert team, they were able to overcome and persevere.

Yet his work isn’t only in the ICU saving the lives of patients like Mary. It’s also in the lab.

Improving Outcomes for Critically Ill Patients

A team of researchers led by Dr. Sekhon, Dr. Gooderham and Dr. Cheryl Wellington, a Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute and Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health at UBC researcher, have developed an innovative research program aimed at identifying novel targets for brain injury research using the donor-funded Brain Bolt.

Combining the real-time data from the Brain Bolt and using a machine known as a Simoa HD-X analyzer in Dr. Wellington’s donor-funded research lab at UBC, blood samples that normally take weeks to analyze are processed with unparalleled sensitivity to unravel the unknowns of the disease mechanisms underpinning acute brain injury. This bench-to-bedside approach is also characterizing the immune system changes to provide optimal care for COVID-19 patients.

This information allows physicians in the ICU to better personalize treatment and improve outcomes for those facing the worst of these insidious diseases.

And this is the tip of the iceberg to Dr. Sekhon’s research. He has been involved in a plethora of projects throughout his career, and he continues to conduct more over time with the singular goal to save lives.

Powered by donations, VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation is proud to support the career of Dr. Myp Sekhon. It’s because of individuals like him that VGH can be a world leader in health care.

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