NOT MANY PEOPLE change career paths in their late forties, much less go to school for eight years to earn a doctorate. But then again not many people have the determination and vision that Dr. Siobhan Trotter does. A former corporate trainer for a large bank in Ontario, Trotter left her career when her husband Steve’s Nashville job in food and beverage services took off. He was offered an opportunity in New Orleans and the family moved to Mandeville. She wanted to live on the Northshore the moment they crossed the Causeway as Mandeville’s lush greenery and tall pine trees beckoned. “I turned to my husband and said, ‘Hey honey, sorry about your commute,’” she laughed.
Some serendipity was involved in their choice to live on the Northshore. Trotter was at a fitness class when she noticed a new member. He happened to be moving from New Orleans to Nashville and he offered her a piece of advice. “It was 2001 and he said New Orleans was way overdue for a hurricane,” she recalled. “He advised me to make sure our property was not in a flood zone. When I asked for suggestions, he recommended Mandeville. And we all know what happened in 2005,” she said. At the time, Siobhan was a stay-at-home mom to their two young children, Conor and Caitlin. But as her kids got older, she became restless. While she loved being a mom, she missed the intellectual challenge and problem solving that working outside of the home gave her. Instead of going back to corporate life, she decided to go to nursing school. It was a career change long in the making. Trotter comes from a lengthy line of nurses. Her mother, aunts, brother, and grandma were or are nurses. Even her great-grandmother was a midwife. “I just came to the party late,” she chuckled.
Her decision to follow the family’s calling came during a particularly painful time. At only 59 years old, Trotter’s father was dying of colon cancer. She flew back to Ontario to take care of him during his final weeks. “One day when I was tending to him, he just said, ‘Siobhan, you’d make a great nurse,’” she remembered. “I guess it’s in my genes.”
Trotter started in Tulane University’s science program and was accepted to Mayo Clinic’s nursing program accepting the challenge to wear the hats of mom, employee, and student. Some days left her exhausted but she was determined to accomplish her mission. At age 48, Siobhan graduated with honors, earning a Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP), the highest degree of nursing education. Her doctoral work focused on improving the quality of life and comprehensive education to prepare patients for oncological surgery. Trotter specializes in prehabilitation of complex cancers in the upper gastrointestinal tract such as esophageal, liver, biliary, pancreatic and gastric cancers. “We let patients know exactly what to expect before and after surgery. Most people are very anxious coming into this and we guide them through the process,” she said. Many of her patients at the Benson Cancer Center are elderly and have lost weight and strength even before their cancer diagnosis. “The upper GI tract is directly linked to digestion,” she explained. “Many patients are malnourished. They can’t eat or digest food. They become anxious, depressed and fragile–and a weakened patient becomes even weaker after surgery.”
It troubled Trotter to watch her patients endure such lengthy recoveries. Their health further degenerated when they were frail for weeks and not getting up to walk. “I thought we could do better for our patients,” she said. One day she attended a seminar hosted by Enhanced Recovery After Surgery Society who were discussing the current practice in our country of not allowing a patient to eat or drink water prior to surgery. “For years, doctors in Europe have encouraged their patients to drink complex carbohydrate drinks before surgery and they boast much better recovery rates,” she noted.
“After the seminar, something just clicked,” Trotter stated. “The research data was compelling and we were determined to make our patient’s surgical journey better by creating a business profile top quality beverage created in America.” She presented her idea to surgical oncologist Dr. William Conway, who agreed she might be onto something. “Surgery takes a huge physical toll on the body,” she said. “In the same way athletes load up on carbs before a marathon, Dr. Conway and I knew a complex carbohydrate drink would benefit a patient before and after surgery.”
It wasn’t a simple task. The beverage had to have the correct amount and type of carbohydrates, the right pH and the proper absorption time. It also had to suppress hunger and taste good. Trotter and her business partner Dr. Conway invested over three years of intense research, formulation and development and SurgiStrong RecoverAidTM finally hit the market in June of this year. “I put almost my entire life savings into developing this product. That’s how strongly I believed in it,” she noted.
A large local hospital system, a healthcare system in Santa Barbara, and a large GI practice in Mississippi currently implement SurgiStrong in their presurgery and pre-colonoscopy protocol with much success. The partners’ next step is to market the product to physicians across the country. “I feel so fortunate to have found a way to shorten patients’ hospital stays, keep their strength and make the surgical process less traumatic,” she said. “Making people feel better is my calling and SurgiStrong helps me do that.” SurgiStrong is located at 1330 Park Drive, Suite 400 in Mandeville. For more information, please call 985.778.2230, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit surgistrong.com