Chronicle Herald: His life was saved by one surgical robot. Now he advocates for another.

A patient wearing blue hospital scrubs stands in an OR with a surgical robot behind him. His arms are crossed as he looks into the camera.

Pictured: Warren Connors with the QEII's da Vinci robot for cancer surgeries, which he credits for saving his life. Article originally published via the Chronicle Herald and

Today only (Nov. 30), all donations to the QEII’s orthopaedic robot are doubled up to $10,000.

When searing pain sent Warren Connors to the emergency department in the middle of the night, he never predicted the events that followed would see his day job as an underwater robotics scientist overlap with his health care journey.

Warren and his wife Amy got the shock of their lives in November 2019, when a CT scan revealed cancerous tumours on each of his kidneys. The defence scientist who had recently returned home to the Maritimes after a stint living in Italy, was both shocked at the diagnosis and happy to be home and under the care of staff at Nova Scotia Health’s QEII Health Sciences Centre.

“In the span of a few hours, we went from the darkest moments of our lives, to feeling a bit of hope,” says Warren. “It was all a bit of a whirlwind, but they sent for a biopsy right away and when I met my QEII urologist, Dr. (Ricardo) Rendon, he was really upfront. He was like, ‘we’re going to cut this out and you’re going to get on with your life.’ His clarity really helped us at that time.”

Within weeks of the shocking diagnosis, Warren underwent two robotic cancer surgeries; procedures made possible by the more than 2,300 donors who supported the QEII Foundation’s $8.1-million fundraising campaign in support of this ground-breaking surgical robotics technology.

Previously healthy, Warren said once he understood the procedure and surgical robot technology – of course he read up on it – he says the entire experience humbled him.

“I had these advanced surgeries and I realized not long after that it was made possible by donations,” says Warren. “It’s amazing what the Foundation is doing and it’s amazing to learn about the capabilities and talents that are here. With this kind of advanced technology, we’re attracting and retaining world-class talent and myself as a patient, I benefit from that.”

Dr. Michael Dunbar is one of those talents who will begin performing orthopaedic robotic surgeries this fall. It’s part of the QEII Foundation’s latest $2.5-million campaign to fund another surgical robot for the QEII – this time for orthopaedic surgeries, instead of cancer surgeries. QEII orthopaedic surgeon, Dr. Dunbar, says it’s the intersection of medicine, technology and humanity that makes him most excited about the future of health care, research and patient outcomes in Atlantic Canada. It’s also why he’s a QEII Foundation donor.

“Having surgical robotics creates an academic focal point and it starts to attract highly-qualified personnel,” Dr. Dunbar said. “There’s no field that robotics has entered that it hasn’t improved … so I think a lot about the intersection of how we introduce robotics, but at the same time maintain the humanity of medicine.”

Warren’s experience as a robotics scientist gave him a unique perspective into the technology and work of Drs. Rendon and Dunbar. The technology amplifies the talents of the surgeon.

Warren said he was shocked when he learned his post-op recovery included walking around the hospital just six hours after the first mass was removed from the first kidney. Six weeks later, Dr. Rendon removed the second mass. From that night in the emergency room to the day Warren returned to work was less than 12 weeks. That bounce-back is a result of the skills and precision made possible because of the surgical robot, say Dr. Rendon and Dr. Dunbar.

Much like the surgeon-controlled robot that played a pivotal role in Warren’s cancer journey, the QEII’s new orthopaedic robot unlocks a level of precision that offers many benefits. “The short-term outcomes that have been proven from other studies would suggest that there's less bleeding, there's less pain, there's less soft tissue trauma, there's a shorter length of stay,” says Dr. Dunbar.

As a surgeon and proud QEII Foundation donor himself, Dr. Rendon has seen the impact of robotics firsthand within his own care area, with more than 450 robotic cancer surgeries performed to date for urologic, gynaecologic and ear, nose and throat cancer surgeries.

“I’m as invested in this as patients and our community donors are,” said Dr. Rendon, who’s excited to see the QEII’s robotics program evolve and expand with the support of donors. "(Donating) demonstrates I'm in the game too."

It’s a sentiment echoed by Warren, who’s now an avid champion for the expansion of surgical robotics to other care areas, like orthopaedics. For him, emerging from a cancer diagnosis with his quality-of-life intact, advocating and fundraising for the QEII Foundation’s latest campaign has come easily. Like the surgical robot that saved Warren’s life, the QEII’s new orthopaedic robot will be entirely donor-funded.

“From the nurses who took my blood in the middle of the night to the surgical team, everyone was just so supportive and they gave me the confidence to fight this thing,” says Warren.

“I want to help make sure more people like me get the chance to fight and that our healthcare teams are equipped with the best technology available – whether it’s within cancer care or orthopaedic surgery.”

According to Warren, supporting the QEII Foundation and Canada’s second orthopaedic robot is one way to do that and “allows you to have a massive impact” on the lives of others.

“It wasn’t just donors giving millions of dollars, it was many individuals reaching into their pockets for $50, $500, $5,000 and more that made the [QEII’s] first surgical robot possible,” said Warren. “With community support, we can do that together again for the new ortho robot – every donation makes a difference”

If you’re inspired to help, today is a great day to donate to the QEII Foundation. In recognition of Giving Tuesday, all donations received today in support of the QEII’s orthopaedic surgical robot will be matched, up to $10,000. Donate today at

Warren stepped up to help raise funds for the ortho robot this holiday season. To learn more about a series of talks he hosted or to help him reach his personal fundraising goal, visit his fundraising page.