Dr. Robert Hilsden

Dr. Robert Jay Hilsden




Cumming School of Medicine, Department of Community Health Sciences


Peter Lougheed Centre


Arnie Charbonneau Cancer Institute

Associate Member

The Calvin, Phoebe and Joan Snyder Institute for Chronic Diseases

Contact information

Phone number

Office: 403.592.5089

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Kelly Johnston
Senior Communications Specialist

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Preferred method of communication

Admin Assistant

Donna Switzer

Email: donna.switzer@ucalgary.ca

Office: 403.592.5089


Educational Background

Doctor of Medicine University of Saskatchewan, 1988

M.Sc. Epidemiology, University of Calgary, 1996

Ph.D. Health Research, University of Calgary,


I am an academic gastroenterologist at the University of Calgary, where my research focuses on improving the access to and the quality of colorectal cancer screening and colonoscopy. From 2008 - 2022, I was the Director of Research at the Forzani & MacPhail Colon Cancer Screening Centre (FMCCSC). As of February 2022, I assumed the role of the Centre's Medical Director. The FMCCSC is an Alberta Health Services non-hospital endoscopy unit dedicated to providing colon cancer screening-related colonoscopies. 


Areas of Research

Area of Focus
  • Colorectal cancer
  • Population-based cancer screening
  • Colonoscopy
  • Health services research and epidemiology related to colorectal cancer


FMCCSC Biorepository

An important component of the FMCCSC research activities is its biorepository. The FMCCSC was initially developed with support from a CIHR Emerging Team Grant to Dr. Linda Rabeneck. This Team Grant was a joint University of Toronto/University of Calgary effort. I was a coinvestigator on the Team Grant, and I was the investigator responsible for the developing a colorectal cancer screening biorepository. The CCSC Biorepository holds comprehensive clinical and epidemiological information as well as biologic samples on over 3,300 participants. We have distributed samples to many researchers in Canada and internationally.

Cohort Description


Colorectal Cancer Screening Access and Quality

An important component of my work at the FMCCSC is leading quality assurance activities. The FMCCSC is recognized nationally and internationally for its work in this area. Much of my current research focuses on the development and validation of quality indicators for colonoscopy and measuring the population and health system impact of screening using the fecal immunochemical test (FIT). 



Development of a definition and rules for causal attribution of post-colonoscopy bleeding  

Defining and Applying Locally Relevant Benchmarks for the Adenoma Detection Rate


FMCCSC Research Unit

The FMCCSC is an Alberta Health Services non-hospital endoscopy unit dedicated to providing colon cancer screening-related colonoscopies. The primary research objective of the CCSC is to support research that leads to improvements in the early detection and prevention of colon cancer. To achieve this end, the CCSC supports other researchers by providing them access to patients and biologic materials. As an efficient, focused and high-throughput unit, the FMCCSC is able to rapidly provide researchers access to necessary materials in a timely and cost-efficient manner. The FMCCSC is currently funded to complete 17,400 colonoscopies annually. Approximately 500 people with a positive fecal immunochemical test and >500 people with a personal history of adenomatous polyps or colorectal cancer are seen each month. High quality colonoscopy is critically important for the conduct of valid research. Because of the FMCCSC focus on quality, we can guarantee that colonoscopies performed as part of research studies are of the highest quality and exceed all standard quality benchmarks. 

The CCSC has supported the development of novel colorectal cancer screening tests by participating in clinical trials. For example, the FMCCSC participated in the DEEP-C study conducted by Exact Sciences Inc (Madison, WI). This study evaluated a fecal DNA test for colorectal cancer (NEJM 2014; 370:1287). The FMCCSC was the #1 recruiting site, recruiting approximately 860 patients for the study. The FMCCSC also underwent a 1 week FDA audit, without identification of any significant concerns.


A quantitative multimodal metabolomic assay for colorectal cancer  

Prediction of findings at screening colonoscopy using a machine learning algorithm based on complete blood counts (ColonFlag)