VM-Med celebrates 25 years

Dr. John Keyserlingk founded the Ville Marie Women’s Health Centre to better serve his patients and advance the medical practice.

On the 18th of October 2019, VM-Med, originally known as the Ville Marie Medical & Women’s Health Centre, will celebrate its 25th Anniversary.

As the date nears, I have been reflecting on the history and the development of VM-Med.

It has been quite an adventure, and it all started as a small breast centre with a single mammogram. The clinic was located on a small portion of the10th floor of our current site in Montreal. Now, 25 years later, it involves three floors, four departments, and state-of-the-art technologies. The multi-disciplinary medical experts on-site at VM-Med have access to a range of services, including all the pertinent imaging, nuclear medicine, biopsy technology, and local surgical procedures. They also benefit from superb support staff. VM-Med is now the most complete private Ambulatory Breast Centre in Canada. Rather than be affiliated to a specific hospital, VM-Med prefers to be affiliated with its large patient pool that comes from both close and afar.

Several of my experiences informed my decision to start the centre that would become VM-Med. By the late 1980s, I had completed my General Surgery, Surgical Oncology, and Otolaryngology training at both McGill and the Royal Marsden Hospital in London, England. I had great expectations regarding the need for quick and efficient delivery of medical, surgical, and oncology care. I had the unorthodox idea that medical care was similar to most other services and thus should be run with the same premise: the need to strive for the best. Unfortunately, my lofty expectations were gradually thwarted by increasing hospital and government bureaucracy that took the biggest financial bite out of the available Quebec Heath budget. There was very little left over for the “in-the-trenches” patient care. Despite my best efforts as a young Director of Surgical Teaching and then Surgeon-in-chief of a McGill affiliated hospital, I was unable to change the hospital-based inertia.

By then, it occurred to me that to overcome the innumerable in-hospital obstacles to the most efficient and targeted care delivery, we would need to look outside the hospital setting. The idea encompassed installing the latest technology with the best support team to attract the most competent multi-disciplinary team of medical/imaging and associated health professionals. Finally, I wanted it all based in an unencumbered one-stop ambulatory (out of hospital) centre.

Thus was born the Ville Marie Women’s Health Centre, providing access to multiple clinics and carrying on clinical research, all within an academic atmosphere. While we are now known as VM-Med, our mission remains the same.

VM-Med is a Canadian model showcasing how both our public and private teams can work closely together to optimize health management. Our on-site Ville Marie Oncology and Pathology Conferences (VMOP) and our Ville Marie Oncology Foundation (VMOF) constitute excellent examples of this teamwork. The weekly on-site VMOPs are attended by medical, surgical, and radiation oncologists, pathologists, radiologists, genetic counsellors, residents, navigators, and more from McGill, the CHUM, and even abroad, thanks to the Internet. The mission of all VMOP participants is to review diagnoses and prepare management of all the VM-Med oncology patients. The VMOF also has a mission to help provide support for some public patients, who are already waiting weeks and sometimes months to have access to a quick private definitive diagnostic procedure.

As we near the 25th anniversary of VM-Med, I think it’s important to review its past and evaluate its present in order to move forward and continue to provide the best quality of care possible. By being reminded of our roots, we can continue to build, strengthen, and deliver on our mission.

-Dr. John Keyserlingk