Interview with Chantelle Rizan: a surgeon raising the profile of research in Sustainability in Surgery

Charlotte Holbrook's picture

Hi, in what I hope will be the first in an occasional series of interviews(!), I recently had the opportunity to ask Chantelle Rizan about her research work in sustainability in surgery. Chantelle is the first ever Sustainable Surgery Fellow with the Centre for Sustainable Healthcare and has more recently also been appointed as a Surgical Research Fellow with the Royal College of Surgeons of England. She is doing some really interesting work on carbon footprinting in surgery for her PHD and really highlighting the importance of sustainability to surgeons.

What started your interest in environmental sustainability? I have a longstanding personal interest in the natural world and caring for our environment, and was always mindful of resource use during my own clinical practice. I did a Masters of Research streamlining patient pathways using lean management techniques, and realised at that point a lot of the principles of lean (with financial and efficiency savings) translate to environmental savings too. I then discovered there is a nascent academic field in healthcare environmental sustainability and that not much had been done in the field of surgery, so developed a PhD proposal on that basis.

How did you come to find out about the fellowship? I developed my research proposal and sought PhD funding from Health Education England and the Royal College of Surgeons of England. This enabled CSH to create the fellowship to support my work.

What aspects of environmental sustainability have you been looking at during your work so far? The aim of my PhD is to identify the optimum ways to reduce the environmental impact of operating theatres. I am estimating the carbon footprint of the five most common operations in the UK, looking at ways to reduce this based on variation in practice and hypothetical models. My preliminary results show that single use items are a major contributor, so I am doing a detailed full life cycle assessment comparison of reusable versus disposable surgical scissors, looking at 18 different measures of environmental impact.

Which project/ initiative are you most proud of/ do you think has had most impact?  I was recently appointed as a Surgical Research Fellow at the Royal College of Surgeons of England (RCSEng). This is an important step in aligning my research with the College and raises the profile of my research. I subsequently presented at the RCSEng Council Meeting on the challenges and opportunities surrounding surgical sustainability. This stimulated an interesting debate on steps that could be taken to improve sustainability within surgical practice.

What barriers have you encountered during your work?  The largest barriers have related to environmental accounting methods due to the complexity and the inaccuracy of carbon footprinting and life cycle assessment. I spent around 6 months reading intensely within the field, before deciding upon a methodological approach which I was happy would give me a method which was sufficiently accurate to determine environmental hotspots within surgery. It is also very difficult to obtain data that is sufficiently detailed for this type of work. Before starting this work I anticipated barriers from healthcare professionals, but everyone has been very interested and engaged in my area of research which has been very encouraging.

What plans do you have next?  Alongside my PhD I am working with my local trust to develop a Sustainable Development Management Plan, and I am delighted to now be working alongside RCSEng as a research fellow. After completing my PhD, my plan is to return to ENT surgical training, and (wherever possible) continue to split my time across academic and clinical work throughout my career. I would like to set up a Sustainable Healthcare Research Centre- the field is in its infancy and I have a lifetime's work ahead!

Miss Chantelle Rizan BSc(Hons) MBBCh MRes MRCS(ENT), Surgical Research Fellow, Royal College of Surgeons of England, ENT Research Fellow, Brighton & Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust, Sustainable Surgery Fellow, Centre for Sustainable Healthcare, Honorary Clinical Teaching Fellow, Brighton & Sussex Medical School

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