Professor Les Bokey: bowel cancer, robotics and automation in health

Professor Les Bokey came to Australia from Alexandria as a refugee in the 1960’s. He is now Foundation Professor of Surgery and Clinical Dean of Western Sydney University; head of Australia’s only robot simulation training system at Liverpool Hospital; Order of Australia Medal recipient for service to medicine and a leader in the treatment of bowel cancer, robotic surgery and automation in health.

Professor Bokey – also the Director of Research, Director of Surgery and Clinical Director for South Western Sydney Local Health District (SWSLHD) and Director of the Ingham Institute for Applied Medical Research – began his pioneering work more than 30 years ago at Sydney’s Concord Hospital. Together with surgical colleagues, Professor Bokey participated in contributing to a large database which allowed researchers to follow-up with patients over many years and map their response to different modalities of treatment.

In 2003, when Professor Bokey and his surgical colleagues described a new approach to the surgical management of bowel cancer. This involved the precise anatomical dissection of the colon and rectum, along bloodless anatomical planes. This technique, known as ‘Total Anatomic Dissection’ (TAD), was shown to significantly improve survival and reduce local cancer recurrence. The technique, in several forms has now been adopted globally under different names.

Professor Bokey and his team were also instrumental in the early introduction of laparoscopic or ‘keyhole’ surgery for bowel cancer. This has resulted in smaller scars, and quicker recovery after surgery for bowel cancer patients.

Professor Bokey has continued his interest in minimally invasive surgery by developing robotic surgery and introducing this as an academic discipline at Liverpool Hospital.  This was supported by the Perich Family and The Eggtober Foundation and SWSLHD. A simulation robot was donated to simulate processes for surgical trainees, and a clinical robot was installed to offer public patients access to robotic surgery.

“Robotic surgery brings with it many benefits. For one, it offers the operator 3D vision, which keyhole surgery does not. The operating arms (although only 10mm in diameter) have 360-degree movement – very much like human hands. This means that a surgeon can reach the narrowest areas of the human body, with the benefit of 3D vision. Something that is particularly useful in the pelvis, which is very narrow.

“Our hope is that our Unit will encourage surgeons from around Australia and the world to train here and to contribute to our work in South Western Sydney,” says Professor Bokey.

Professor Bokey's work is an example of research making an impact – the focus of the 2018 Town & Gown Gala Dinner, supported by gold sponsors Brydens Lawyers, Charter Hall and PwC Australia.

ENDS.

16 October 2018

Media Unit