Meet Dr. Brian Bressler

As a resident gastroenterologist in the early 2000s, Dr. Brian Bressler was meeting and treating patients with inflammatory bowel disease. Through these interactions, he determined early on that the complex nature of Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis merited these patients special attention. At the same time, new and innovative therapies like biologics were promising transformative treatment opportunities.

Around North America, 12 other resident gastroenterologists were independently coming to the same conclusion. These 13 young doctors were among the first on the continent to undertake an extra year of study in their residency specifically focused on IBD. They have since joined forces to form the research and advocacy BRIDGe Group, which is doing groundbreaking, collaborative work in patient-centric IBD care and research.

With the goal of advancing IBD care in his home province of British Columbia, Dr. Bressler started an IBD-focused gastroenterology practice in Vancouver after completing his residency training in 2006. He hired a team of nurses and other care providers and trained them in the complexities of IBD-specific care. With their help, he was able to offer his patients with Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis a level of care previously unavailable to them.

At the same time, Dr. Bressler also started work with other specialists to build an IBD network around the province. He began collaborating with Dr. Kevan Jacobson of BC Children’s Hospital to develop a transition clinic for youth with IBD who were moving into adult care. He also helped develop an IBD fellowship program that has put Vancouver on the map as a go-to destination for doctors around the world who are looking to specialize in IBD care. Its first graduate was Dr. Greg Rosenfeld, who now works with Dr. Bressler at The IBD Centre of BC.

It is not an understatement to say that Dr. Bressler has dedicated his career to improving the lives of people living with IBD. He says, “I have always had a passion to offer world-class IBD care to patients in BC, that’s always been my focus and what I wanted to accomplish in my career.”

Dr. Bressler credits his patients with giving him the motivation to spend 10-plus hours at the office or hospital every day, followed by a couple more hours working at home after family dinner with his wife and three children.

He’s been following some of these patients for a decade or more, “It’s unbelievable,” he says, “I remember some of them from when they were young and seeing how sick they were and how good they are now as they start families and embark on careers.” He adds, “Without a doubt, seeing on a weekly basis the — and this is a strange word to use in this context, but it’s the best one I can think of — intestinal fortitude and strength of my patients, particularly the young ones, living with something so unfair and debilitating, is inspiring.”

But the positive stories are not the only inspiration. Dr. Bressler also finds the challenging times motivating, but in a different way. “The negative is when things don’t go well. We have made advances, but we are nowhere close to having IBD solved. Unfortunately, when patients suffer, that also gives me fire to try to figure this thing out,” he says.

For Dr. Bressler, “figuring this thing out” ultimately sparked the seed of a dream to create a holistic, multidisciplinary clinic that would ensure all British Columbians with IBD could have access to IBD-specific health care. With a lot of hard work and commitment by a great many like-minded healthcare professionals and others, Dr. Bressler’s seed has blossomed into the IBD Centre of BC.

He explains that the goals of The IBD Centre of BC as five fold:

Timely access
“Expedited, expeditious complete care is what we are aiming for because the earlier patients get into treatment, the higher the likelihood that their disease will be under control with a reduced risk of complication,” explains Dr. Bressler.

Multidisciplinary approach
“The combination of many different health-care professionals and the team approach is necessary to get the best outcomes for patients in both managing and living with their disease,” says Dr. Bressler.

Province-wide access
Dr. Bressler explains, “This is a monumental task because the centre is physically located in Vancouver, but with telehealth we can reach patients across BC and make a real impact on their health.”

Advance IBD research
“We need to understand what patients need, ask the right questions and have the capacity to answer the questions,” explains Dr. Bressler

Dr. Bressler says, “We want to be able to provide world-class IBD education for nurses, dieticians, psychologists and other health-care professionals so they can become a resource to both their specialties and their communities.”

Ultimately, Dr. Bressler believes that by helping patients across the province get access to expeditious, high-quality, interdisciplinary treatment and by increasing awareness about IBD in BC, The IBD Centre of BC is a game changer for British Columbians living with IBD.