Dr. Neil Reaume

We started this podcast on the history of medical oncology. We’ve called it The Mustard, after nitrogen mustard, the preferred chemo agent.

Dr. Neil Reaume

head, Division of medical oncology

Which TV series contained an image or reference to Superman in each episode? Dr. Neil Reaume knows the answer – it’s Seinfeld. Rule to the wise: don’t ever play TV trivia with him. He’ll smoke ya.

As the youngest of three siblings, Neil watched a lot of TV as a kid and gravitated towards doctor shows; they fascinated him. He watched every episode of M.A.S.H. and afterward, knew that he would eventually become a doctor. He remembers the first few years of that show being raw and witnessed people who were passionate about whatever medical emergency they were facing. And it wasn’t just the medicine aspect, there was a whole other layer.

As a newly appointed Division Head, responsible for dozens of medical oncologists, he is experiencing this ‘whole other layer’ firsthand. This leader is taking new approaches to address issues affecting the wellbeing of the people underneath that white coat.

EPIC sherriff and podcaster, Dr. Neil Reaume talks pineapple on pizza, banana seat bikes and why nothing comes for free.

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When I took on this job and moved into this office, I changed everything. I wanted to create an environment where people can pop by, have on the spot meetings or simply hang out and chew the fat. I’ve had some really good conversations with people in here, that’s important to me.

I think people see me as too serious. I don’t know if they’re completely wrong. I’d like to think that I’m an approachable person. As the Program Director I had residents come to me and share things that I would never have imagined. Whereas now as Division Head I’m dealing with 25 chefs, it’s a bit different; these colleagues are well established. My mom was a high school teacher and her students used to say, Mrs. McNeil, ‘you’re tough but fair’. I always thought that was a good thing to aspire to. That was certainly my approach as Program Director; I’m still figuring it out as Division Head.

I started yearly retreats for our residents where we’d bring in speakers to talk about mindfulness and other things. We’ve tried to branch out to totally non-medical topics like legal stuff and other things that stress people out.

During the first two weeks of EPIC implementation we put in 20-hour days – it was just insane. To get through it and ease the tension I tried to take a lighthearted approach. So, when they gave me the ‘EPIC super user vest’ I went out and bought a sheriff’s badge and pinned it on. It made people laugh. So, I bought more and went around deputizing people. I was really trying to be motivational even though I knew there were huge problems. In the long run we’ll fix them all and eventually be way ahead of where we were before.

We’re really lucky that our payment plan gives us opportunities for sabbaticals. I really pushed our group to take their sabbatical for their wellness. We’ve always valued collegiality so together we’ll manage covering each other’s work loads and our stress will deteriorate.

The furthest I’ve ever pushed myself physically was a triathlon. I’d like to train for a full iron man but that’s a major commitment. You pretty much have to sign a contract with your family and I’ve never been in a position where I had that much time. Maybe when my kids hit university. I don’t know, we’ll see.

I am motivated by trying new things.

I’ve got a few pet projects right now that I’ve jumped into. We started this podcast on the history of medical oncology. We’ve called it The Mustard, after nitrogen mustard, the preferred chemo agent. All the legends are retiring right now so it’s time we get a record of all this stuff.

In the clinic we’ve been interviewing cancer patients on their experiences related to travel; things like insurance costs and other practical stuff. The most common question I get starting in about September right through to March is, ‘can I go to Florida, can I book a flight’? After asking 500 patients in the waiting room over four weeks, we’ve got part of the answer and we’ll keep expanding on it. Asking questions outside of science, focused on economics are things I’ve always thought about and just never had an answer for.

My Dad lent me a book about how to run a meeting because essentially meetings are often just complaining. I’ve changed that. Now at our division meetings, if you’re going to talk, you have to have a proposal and the proposal has to be circulated a week ahead, so people have time to think about it. Now, we finish on time and there’s no complaining anymore. In this environment I’m happy to debate the issues, but you need to be prepared.

My greatest regret is not seeing Terry Fox run. When he came through Ottawa I was living in Barrhaven at the time and in hindsight, I should have gone downtown to see him. I remember clipping all the newspaper articles out and reading about Interleukin and the experimental treatment they were giving him. I was just fascinated at how a young person could have cancer – wondering what cancer actually was. It was around the time that I was going into high school. That experience probably planted a seed back then.

The thing that makes me go insane the fastest is REPLY ALL.

You know you’re in love when you can have comfortable silences.

There’s no such thing as too much education.

One rule of parenting: build trust.

Maybe I’m wrong, but I think pineapple on pizza is good.

I think those that are very successful are those that have a plan from the get-go. They’ve been very selective and probably had great mentors. I’ve had some good mentors and some who’ve offered me things that I turned down. Looking back, I’ve thought damn that was a good offer and I missed it. Malcolm Gladwell says you’ve gotta invest time and there’s no doubt about that, but it’s also about positioning yourself to get opportunities – they don’t just fall in your lap.

I do my best thinking when in the shower.

The most indulgent thing I do each day is watch tv. I can just turn my brain off and watch anything and everything. We have themed parties once every few months and one time we did tv trivia – I just smoked everybody. They never want to play tv trivia with me again.

The best ritual of my daily life is tea. I never got into coffee, I had it once and never liked it. The only time I ever drank coffee was when I went to Brazil because I couldn’t get a good cup of tea.

If I’ve learned any truths in life, it’s this: nothing comes for free – there’s always some catch. We’ve pushed for years to get a point of care unit at this hospital and now they’re ready to move forward. I’m not the most political savvy person but I’m learning that if we want it, we have to agree to put in our physical space, we’re not going to get it for free. Sometimes you just have to give and take.

 

The childhood fear I still have as an adult is heights.

The most imaginative thing I’ve done as an adult is take a 12-week cross-country camping honeymoon. My original idea was to go to Scotland to do a little hiking and to see my wife’s grandmother, who is now 107! But that was mad cow year. Btw, my life insurance is going to pay for my wife’s second wedding because men don’t live that long in my family.

In medical school I spent a summer living with a family in Malaysia and did a health project where we went around from hut to hut. Their medical record keeping was amazing. We’d walk in and they’d pull out a Ziploc bag and everything was right there. I also went to Sydney Australia and worked at King’s Cross; total sex, drugs and rock n’ roll. I was in the emergency department at St. Vincent’s for three minutes when the first heroin overdose came through the door and they had to resuscitate her. And she woke up, said thanks and off she went.

When I really want something, I need to research it to death.  That’s why I like Costco; they do all the research for you. They only offer you one kind of anything because they’ve already determined the best value for the dollar. It’s not the best one, it’s not the worst one but it’s the best bang for the buck. Which, by the way, was exactly the topic of my masters in health technology.

The best way to get rid of a dead body is by watching Breaking Bad. I’m Walter, that’s for sure. I’m totally Walter. I mean, the show was about this guy who had stage four lung cancer! He’s just the guy who’s trying to do the right thing and just bumbles his way through it.

The best thing I’ve ever gotten for free is a pair of shoes – so lame. I did a triathlon this past weekend called Xterra Tremblant that included swimming, mountain biking and trail running. It’s a bit of a niche race; there were only about 70 of us. Anyway, I won the door prize which was a free pair of shoes – no strings attached. But man, I worked hard for those shoes.

My definition of a good hotel is a full gym. I’ve always been active. My Dad was a collegiate football captain. My mom was a cheerleader and tennis player and sports were something our family did all the time.

My favourite app is The City of Ottawa Parking app. You get notifications if you’re running out of time and can renew from anywhere!

The silliest thing I own is a banana seat bike. It was great when the kids were really small cause the sissy bar wasn’t that tall, and they could get on it. As they got older, they laughed at it, so it sat gathering dust. Then the show Stranger Things came out and it became popular again. We recently took it camping and my son was a hit with all the girls.

I grew up in Nepean. My father was a church minister and writer. My mother was a high school teacher. What I got from my parents was the value of education.

 

I chose my subspecialty because no two cases are alike, it’s a constantly evolving field.

 

Growing up, poverty was not a word I knew. While we didn’t have a lot of money, we lived a comfortable suburban life.  Medicine has opened my eyes to the spectrum of lives we care for.

The closest I’ve ever come to death was sustaining a head injury while canoeing in Algonquin Park. I wasn’t even canoeing at the time. We’d just finished a portage and I was taking a picture when I turned my back and fell off a rock ledge and landed on my head. Thank goodness we had a paramedic in our group who bandaged me up because we were still a day away from getting anywhere. I bought a helmet for the following week’s canoe trip.

 

The most disgusting thing I’ve ever had to do was look after a monkey colony at the experimental farm for two summers during university. And by the way, monkey colonies are vicious, they have huge fangs. At the time, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do med school or veterinary school. One time I was looking in a cage and saw two monkeys and three tails. A baby was coming out the wrong way of a pregnant mother. So, I got to sit in on it and help with a c-section. It was cool.

I feel I’m on the threshold of a change in career focus to policy/management. The Cancer Centre got absorbed and integrated into the hospital about eight years ago. All the standing operating procedures dissolved in that moment and we immediately fell under The Ottawa Hospital ones, which are much more generic. When I became Division Head, I walked into this office and realized that there’s nothing written down, absolutely nothing. So, whenever I ask, “What’s our policy on this?’, the answer is always, ‘we don’t have a policy. That’s our policy’.

You know you’re the old guy in the clinic when you make jokes that reference shows like M.A.S.H. or Trapper MD and the other two people in the room are like, huh?

Best movie line of all time: build it and they will come. As a Program Director trying to build a program, it was challenging to convince people to come to Ottawa; it’s not Toronto, it’s not Vancouver, but we offer something different here. We’re not the biggest, but we’re the only shop in town and cancer’s going to happen to 1.3 million people here. As a resident you’re going to see more here than you would see anywhere else. I’m using twitter and my new podcasts to continue to get the message out.

Oncologists are very Canadian in that we don’t sell ourselves very well. We have all those tv screens downstairs in the waiting area showing patients how to cook but nothing about our team or for instance, the New England Journal paper Derek Jonker published last week. I started to capture and distribute this stuff via my Friday Fast Five weekly email blast because we need to self-promote.

Matt Damon would portray me in a movie about my life. Who wouldn’t want that identity? He survived Mars by eating his own sh–, and he got saved by Tom Hanks, who I want to meet some day plus the Bourne action agent thing. It’s perfect!

If I had to write my autobiography using only 6 words, it would be: being last sometimes works out. That was my mom’s ongoing joke? I was the last guy into my med school. Someone didn’t show up on the first day, so they phoned me up and said, do you want in?’ And I said, ‘I’ll think about it’. She got so mad and since then, she’s been reminding me.  She actually wrote on my card MD LGO: Last Guy in Ontario.

I don’t read emails or try to do work stuff after seven except maybe for drafting my Friday Fast Five email because I’ve left it to the last minute.

You go through a lot of phases in life. Right now, I’m using what I’ve learned and paying it forward. I’m trying to make sure my junior people have some act of mentorship early in their career; that they aren’t left on their own and that they’re productive early on for whatever they want to do. I took on the role of Residency Program Director very early in my career and that got me off track. I would never recommend it for someone who’s not an educator – I wasn’t. I learned a lot from doing it, but that kind of sent my career away from its original path.

I’m going to measure my success after this role based on whether my group creates a momentum of their own. Right now, we have a lot of good things going on, but they seem a little disjointed. I’m hoping to bring things together. And that all the people in our group are happy and I can hand it off to someone else to do whatever they want with it, because I would have at least created an infrastructure.

Dr. Lana Castellucci

Grant writing is definitely a learned skill. Knowing how to sell and market your idea is really crucial to making something successful. 

Dr. Lana Castellucci

Division of hematology

Yoga, fishing, playing hide and seek – all things Dr. Lana Castellucci is not particularly good at. But not because she can’t bend or cast a line or is averse to tight spaces, she simply can’t keep quiet under any circumstances! She’s Italian and by nature a permanent contender for the how-loud-can-we-talk title. And that should tell you everything you need to know.

Being Italian, in particular the daughter of immigrant parents, has served her well. Through their struggles she’s witnessed the pay-off of perseverance, a valuable trait when you’re a medical researcher. Despite a few starts and stops Lana has an impressive track record. In just a few years on staff she has already established herself among the heavy hitters in thrombosis research. She gives some of the credit to the mother ship – built on the backs of our world-renowned experts such as Drs Wells and Rodger – the rest… is pure tenacity.

Here, Dr. Lana Castellucci shares some thoughts on life including her love of shopping, hate of spiders and how to celebrate a funded grant.

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The greatest remedy on Earth today is red wine. I put that sh– in everything.

In the beginning of any career, advice from other’s can be overwhelming.

Money to me means being charitable – being kind and giving to those less fortunate.

A really big test of how kind a human being is, is how he or she speaks to you on the telephone.

If I could change one thing about my family, it would be how far away they live. Windsor is a long drive from Ottawa.

Windsor is a big automotive town. I worked the assembly lines at Chrysler Friday and Saturday nights during my undergrad. It was hard work, very physical but the most mind-numbing thing ever. There was no way I was going to do that for the rest of my life.

There were a bunch of us in undergrad who were all interested in medicine and 80-90% of us became doctors. I guess there was a spark in all of us that gave us a common connection.

Back during SARS there was a huge increase in ICU fellowship positions to help manage the patients. Afterward, those new intensivists, myself being one of them were all trying to find a niche to combine with Critical Care to make us more marketable in the real world. I liked thrombosis so came back to Ottawa to do that.

My greatest professional achievement is working with an amazing group to develop a research program. The group is obviously quite exceptional. You’re in Mecca here. But it’s also a challenge because you’re faced with a sort of competition if you will. You need to aspire to great things, and at first, that was hard. That’s where the perseverance comes through; you just keep applying for grants and when you get rejected you keep working at it and ask for help. My research is focused on the safety of anticoagulation and trying to figure out which blood thinners are the safest for treatment of venous thrombosis.

Grant writing is definitely a learned skill. Knowing how to sell and market your idea is really crucial to making something successful. That comes with trial and error and from getting the feedback of your reviewers to make your next application better.

When I wake up in the morning, I hit snooze. This morning I was running late – like every other morning. I will set my alarm earlier than necessary, so I have time to hit snooze, a lot! It doesn’t help, I’m still late.

My idea of misery is no shopping. I’m definitely a shopaholic. At home I like stores like Kate Spade and Nordstrom but when I travel in Europe, I can’t pass by a pharmacy without going in. You can get so many things over the counter in Europe that you can’t get here – I mean anything. It just fascinates me. It drives my friends crazy, they say, ‘Oh my god, not another pharmacy!’

I just got back from Italy. It was grape harvest time, so I got to participate in that. I did it for about three hours and you know, the novelty of that really wears off. I was like, ‘okay, now I need a glass of wine – I’m done’.

The thing that would make me go insane the fastest is moving into a hoarder’s house! My mom kept absolutely everything. When we moved them from their house into a two-bedroom condo, it was a disaster, nothing would fit. So, the next day I sent it all to Goodwill. My mom still asks me where things are with an accusing look of ‘I know you gave it away and you didn’t even ask me if it was okay’.

If you learn anything with age, it’s that other people’s opinions matter less.

As you get older, you get more confident.

The best advice I was ever given was, ‘make sure it is what you want to do, not what is expected of you’.

Growing up, ‘failure’ was not a word I knew. There is always something to be learned from the process or journey, despite not achieving the outcome you thought you wanted.

Unfortunately, one of my big funded projects was stopped early because we had poor patient recruitment. It’s one of those inevitable things about research; as important as the question is, if you can’t get patients to participate, sometimes the questions go unanswered. It’s very dissatisfying.

The thing I’d find most difficult about being in prison would be solitary confinement. While I do like my own space, I’m somewhat of an extrovert and have a hard time keeping my mouth shut. I don’t do things like yoga because I can’t keep quiet under any circumstances. I mean, I could, I can, but for a solid hour it’s really hard. I’m Italian, I like to talk and give my 2 cents. I like interacting and communicating with people.

My stress reducing trick is dark chocolate.

The phrase I most overuse is “do you have any chocolate”?

The room in my home that I spend the most time in is my closet. It was part of the reason I bought my house. I love my walk-in closet, it’s just huge and the woman I bought it from had done absolutely everything that I would have done.

I don’t like it when people say, “Not my responsibility”.

I’m least tolerant of laziness in others and I try to gently call people out on this. I’ve learned over the years that you can’t necessarily be as blunt as often as I have been.

To compete in life, you’ve got to make no excuses. My parents are a big inspiration. They both immigrated to Canada with nothing. That’s where my perseverance comes from. You see adversity and you just overcome it. If I’ve learned any truths in life, it’s this: maintain perspective; the big picture matters most.

I think you do your best when you’re invested.

CIHR is very competitive, receiving a grant from them for $1.23 million to investigate blood thinners was a prime example of my perseverance.

My COBRRA grant application was not funded the first few times and when it was – it felt awesome! I definitely celebrated that one with friends and champagne!

The best way to get things moving is do them myself. Even if I have help, I’m still overseeing things, I have a hard time letting go. I’m a classic A type personality that way.

The childhood fear I still have as an adult is spiders. I hate them. And if they’re in my house, they’re dying.

The most imaginative thing I’ve done as an adult is trying to keep my opinions to myself; this is really hard for me! It’s almost reflex; it just comes out of my mouth. I try to find imaginative ways to distract myself so that I don’t comment on everything.

What I got from my father was a sense of humour. As my Mom would say, “you’re just like your Dad”.

To this day, I can’t stop laughing. My brother used to say I would laugh at the grass growing because I’d just giggle at everything.

Sometimes when you’re trying too hard you miss the fun of the experience.

Everything tastes better when my mom makes it.

The best thing I’ve ever gotten for free is friendship.

My favourite app is Insta; so much fun to see what others are doing!

The silliest thing I own is Fred, he’s a cross eyed wooden bird that sits in my home office. Funky Fred is the perfect colourful conversation starter.

I was raised to be independent. That’s a big departure from what’s expected of the youngest daughter in an Italian family. I think my Dad was probably a big contributor to that. I had a really good relationship with him growing up. Education was important to me and he really encouraged and fostered that.

My unknown talent is decorating houses. I just sort of have an eye for things. My friends come over and say, ‘why does your house look so good?’ It’s because I want it to be a great, comfortable space to spend time in. When my friends come over with their kids, they’re not allowed to touch anything. Some of them have moved or redecorated and asked my opinion on things or had me go shopping with them. I guess I’m the consultant.

Dr. Steve Kravcik had a significant influence on my career. I worked with him as a medical student; he was inspiring and smart and full of useless facts!

The most disgusting thing I’ve ever had to do was deliver a baby – it was amazing, but gross!

I always wanted a nanny for myself. All of my friends have nannies for their kids, and I need somebody just like that. Besides cleaning I’d have her to do the groceries. I love cooking but I hate grocery shopping.

The one non-monetary thing I have the highest hope of obtaining in life is learning to always appreciate what I have.

If I could only pack 3 things in my suitcases to travel to an unknown destination they would be: well actually I’d pack 3 suitcases, not 3 things!

A book that has had a lasting impression on me is To Kill a Mockingbird. It has a great message about social injustice, prejudice, and striving to be better.

Can’t Stop the Feeling by JT is a song that is guaranteed to start my day off right.

The 1990s fashion trend that I miss the most is fluorescent pink.

Best quote of all time: “Real integrity is doing the right thing, knowing that nobody’s going to know whether you did it or not.” ~Oprah Winfrey

Dr. Pierre Cardinal

If you learn anything with age, it’s that clothes help.

Dr. Pierre Cardinal

Division of CRITICAL CARE

When he was younger, Hull native Pierre Cardinal had big plans for a career in the National Hockey League. He had no speed, no coordination and no situational awareness but otherwise he says, he had all the right attributes. This was a tough pill to swallow for a French-Canadian boy who believed that if you worked hard enough at something, you could actually achieve it.

So, while never destined for induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame, Pierre Cardinal still worked hard and managed to distinguish himself as one of the ‘greats’ in the arena of Critical Care Medicine. His unrelenting desire for improvement led him to establish the CRI Critical Care Education Network which, after much national success, was acquired by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons. He is the editor-in-chief of Navigating Medical Emergencies, an e-book centred on the approach to the undifferentiated acutely ill patient, used by thousands who want to reference expert opinions, clinical approaches and best evidence. In recognition of his passion for medical education he was given the prestigious Frank S. Rutledge Award for Excellence in Critical Care Teaching. His contributions to the future leaders in the field have been remarkable.

Today, in his sixth decade of life, this founding father of Critical Care shares his views on aging, smoking cigars and spandex. Below, an entertaining account of The Man. The Myth. The Legend.

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Courage is looking at yourself in the mirror, literally!

I think people see me as old. I feel old. I just had my knee replaced so I’m back to being more active but I’m grey haired and I can see the age. I know that soon my career will come to an end. I’m not quite ready yet but I’m at least thinking about it on a regular basis. It will actually be easy for me to retire because I’m super good at holidays – I don’t think of the work at all. I will not be bored. Now I count years backward. I don’t think of myself as 60 but instead think that I have 20 years left to live. I’m lucky to be healthy and I wouldn’t necessarily say the best years are behind me because studies show that people get happier as they get older, in part because their expectations become more reasonable. My expectations from my teenage years are pretty much gone. I know who I am, I know what I can do.

If you learn anything with age, it’s that clothes help.

Sometimes when you’re trying too hard you end up with back spasms. 

The furthest I’ve ever pushed myself physically was yoga, I ain’t meant to bend that way. At my age you’re not supposed to wear spandex or do yoga, but I do. I’m stiffer than I was, and it helps with my flexibility and golf swing. I would never go to a public place; yoga is done in the privacy of my home watching YouTube. And I do wear spandex when I’m cycling because of the padding, I love the padding. It’s purely a utility. And you would never, ever see me wearing spandex in any public place. I put them on inside my house, I go for a bike ride and when I get back the first thing that comes off is the spandex.

The best thing I’ve ever gotten for free is my parents. We were a middle-class family that progressed quite a bit. My Dad started as an office boy at CBC and ended up being a Director, so eventually life became much more comfortable. At first, he was serving us ice cream – but only one scoop. By the time I was a teenager I could get two or three because we had more money in the house. My Mom was a teacher and then stopped to raise three kids. She returned when my youngest sister started school. We were a comfortable family, a traditional family and very supportive and very close. We’re still very close. My Dad passed away a few years ago and my Mom is in a home. She fell twice last week and I’m mentioning this not to say how hard it is but to say how nice it is to have my two sisters nearby. We make a schedule to visit her and help. I’m lucky.

I was raised to be… still alive by age 17. My friends and I would drive like crazy on dirt roads and I remember very, very scary episodes. I wrecked my Dad’s car when I was 16. It was the upbringing in those days. Today I always drive above the speed limit but just enough to not get caught. I’m cheap you know. I don’t think driving fast is more dangerous, I just don’t want to get the expensive ticket.

To compete in life, you’ve got to want to. Growing up, studying was not a word I knew. My image would have suffered. To be seen as somebody who was into books would have made me a nerd. In those days to be too smart was not well seen. My image was more of a guy who didn’t like authority, who was loud and got kicked out of class. I was fun. This changed when I got to Cégep. I finished high school when I was 16 and when I went to the counsellor and said, ‘I like people, I like science, is there any job for me?’, and he said, ‘have you thought of becoming a doctor?’, I asked him if he thought I could do it. I had good marks and was well ranked, and he thought I was smart enough, so I said, ‘okay, that’s what I’ll do’. That was it. I knew if I wanted to get into medical school I had to study more and then I worked.

To become good at anything you have to suffer. I’m from the old generation where it’s seven days a week. There’s no such thing as a balanced life; that’s foreign to me. The one thing I recognize now is how tired I’ve always been, especially when I had young kids. ICU is grueling but as physicians we’re proud, and it’s this pride that convinces us that we can do it – we can, but at a price. It’s a bit easier now. When I first started, I’d be on for 12 days straight first call! And then I’d go out and party – that might have had something to do with my frontal lobe still not being fully developed.

Let It Be is a song that is guaranteed to start my day off right. It’s a bit of a sad song but it’s a beautiful, beautiful song. And it’s a little bit about how I see the world and how we should be… you know ‘just let it be’. These types of songs do not make me sad, I know that life is hard. Do you know the difference between an optimist and a pessimist? The optimist knows that life is hard, the pessimist rediscovers it every day. Well I don’t need to rediscover it every day.

Having a cigar is life’s greatest luxury. After a busy day I’ll go home and open a bottle of wine, go outside with my wife and light up a cigar and just sit. We have a nice place with gardens and a beautiful view. Perhaps it’s a little like meditation – you control your breathing and I don’t inhale. I like to have them while I barbecue and at certain times of the year it’s the best way to get rid of bugs!

The afternoon of my dreams would include a nap.

The room in my home that I spend the most time in is where the fridge is.

I’d eat ice cream all the time if it wasn’t for my health. We usually don’t eat much carbs at home but we had the family over this weekend and so we bought ice cream. They didn’t eat that much of it so tonight I want to kill it. I’ll get rid of it, so it won’t be in the house.

I prefer to stay at home and cook because I can’t have my cigar in a restaurant.

The thing that makes me go insane the fastest… is my wife. Let me explain. I’m extremely rational and my wife Lissa is totally emotional. So, if we get into an argument there is absolutely no point in trying to reason with her. I’m not good at dealing with emotions, so when there is conflict, and by the way it’s not that often, I will end up saying things to her like ‘what you just said is actually factually incorrect’…Then I take a deep breath try to understand, only to realize, again, that the disagreement had nothing to do with facts!

Dr. Gwynne Jones always makes me laugh. He’s just the funniest guy. He has all these one-liners… these Gwynnisms. He’s got so many jokes; many, many of them are just awful which is perfect for me considering my upbringing; they were in vogue at that time. And of course, Gwynne can say them with total impunity because he’s such a nice man. He doesn’t have an ounce of malice in him. And then there’s his accent, that helps.

The dirtiest place I’ve ever been in is my office. I don’t clean it because I don’t care. We’ve been demoted in terms of offices over the last few years and I’ve basically developed an ‘I don’t care’ attitude. I’m still lucky to have a place to put my boots and my coat but I don’t have to live here.

The best ritual of my daily life is censored.

I do my best thinking when I least expect it.

I think the people who are the best leaders have a certain confidence, not only about themselves but about what’s going to happen. And in times of crisis, they have the ability to step back and look at the big picture calmly and exert this calm influence on others. Often these people start by leading informally but then get pulled into these leadership roles because they have it. I would not classify myself as one of these people. With my patients yes, I’m very calm and don’t get flustered by too many things but in the administrative world, with all the politics, I get frustrated. It’s always the same problems and sometimes there are no solutions for them.

I virtually never have any conflicts at work. In part because I’ve been here for so long and I have built very good relationships with my colleagues, I respect them a lot. And I nurture these relationships by going out of my way to talk face to face with people. For example, I go out of my way over to walk over to talk to interventional radiologists instead of talking over the phone. This way they remember me and probably also remember all the times that I have helped them when it is they, who were in trouble, and needed help. Most of the time when we have a conflict it’s not an emotional thing. If we disagree about how to manage our patients, I will take the approach that they know what they’re talking about and I’ll try to understand their point of view.

A book that has had a lasting impression on me is “The Road Less Traveled”. Problems do not go away; they must be worked through.

I come from a family of teachers; my mother, my grandfather and my sister. I think we probably have it in our blood. I also enjoy interacting with residents immensely, especially small groups. I don’t know where the passion comes from to do all these things but once I identify a need, I just say I’m going to do it. Because I’m determined, I’m not going to stop until it’s done. Those are just the right ingredients, I guess. Then sometimes you just end up being lucky…

A phrase I most overuse is ‘let me play with your brains’. I like to teach, but not so much about knowledge, rather about how people think – the cognitive errors and biases which are well known and predictable. So, I will purposefully frame the students or residents into looking at a problem the wrong way, but I warn them in advance by saying ‘I’m going to play with your brain’. And the majority of the time they still end up giving me the wrong answer. It teaches them to be very, very careful because our brains make predictable errors that, sadly, are hard to avoid.

Best movie of all time is Groundhog Day. I like the idea of improving – trying to become a better person. To me it’s a movie that gives someone a chance to do it over and over again until they become better. I like the message there, and Bill Murray is so funny.

I’m not a writer and I don’t write with great ease. It’s become easier as I’ve been doing more and more of it. And, if it needs to be done, I’m gonna spend the time and write something that is good enough. The book I’m most proud of is Navigating Medical Emergencies: An Interactive Guide to Patient Management. We’ve basically developed this by interviewing experts across Canada. The ebook is a good reference but also serves as a knowledge repository upon which different forms of simulations, are built. The problem with experts is that a portion of their knowledge is unconscious. So, it took a lot of work and many focus groups to extract that knowledge from the brains of our experts. However, having completed this work, we now are in a much better position to develop a multi-model curriculum that integrates well and is cohesive. It’s very practical. If you want to assess somebody for x, y, z, it tells you what you should do, the reasons why, and provides the evidence. It’s been a lot of work, but it’s been very well received.

Right now, I’m involved in a big project for Canadian Blood Services. We’re developing an education program on organ donation. Millions are invested in this program and it’s 3 or 4 years of work. So, when it’s complete and somebody comes and says, ‘we like how you’ve done things, would you like to lead this project and here’s so many million dollars’, I might say yes. If I think it’s worthwhile.

My most prized childhood possession was a sound system. When I was a teenager, my grandmother’s house burnt down and so she moved in with us. I moved into the basement. The beauty of moving to the basement was that I had the entire space for myself. I’m sure at times the house was shaking because of rock ‘n roll music being listened to by a young teenager. It had to be very loud.

A present I will always be happy to receive are my granddaughters.

The most money I’ve spent on something really stupid is hockey equipment.

The closest I’ve ever come to death was wrestling with the wheels of a moving truck. I was a resident at the time. I was cycling to work, and I did a stupid move where I tried to be a little more athletic then I truly was by jumping over a curb and I ended up falling into the middle of the street. A truck was rolling my way and its wheel hit me, but just enough to push me, not roll over me. I ended up with a broken arm.

I would never do well in an ICU bed. If life is good to me, I’ll learn that I’m going to die from something that won’t take that long. I’ll stay at home and die there. I’m not going to come here with tubes in every orifice, unconscious, no control, staying here for months in bed. I’ve seen it, there’s a lot of suffering. It’s worth going through all that suffering when you’re very young, when you have your life in front of you, but I’m not interested in that at all. Luckily, I’m not totally DNR material yet!

The one non-monetary thing I have the highest hope of obtaining in life is to be killed at the age of ninety by a jealous husband. My wife would not feel threatened by this answer. She’d say, ‘I’ve heard it a million times before.’

Dr. Alaa Rostom

To compete in life you’ve got to take advantage of even small opportunities with tenacity.

Dr. Alaa Rostom

Division of gastroenterology

Dr. Alaa Rostom is a self-professed geek. He builds his own computers, tinkers with electronics and solders almost every day. According to this Gastroenterologist, when it comes to technology, he’s right up there in geekland. And there’s more. He flies racing drones. Yes, that’s right – racing drones, even has a bonafide drone pilot certificate! He’s serious about this stuff. The word enthusiast does not even begin to describe him. When it comes to hobbies, he takes them all to the extreme!

 

Alaa’s passion goes far beyond pastimes though. To compete in life, he says, you’ve got to take advantage of even small opportunities with tenacity. And take advantage he has, building the Calgary Colon Cancer Screening Centre from the ground up and returning to Ottawa to Head the Division of GI. Whether leading a national training program for practicing endoscopists or tackling the system-level coordination of endoscopy, medical and surgical services, Alaa’s determination and conviction to improve the quality of patient care across this region is undeniable.

 

Below, a wide-ranging discussion with Dr. Rostom about playing complicated riffs on his guitar, what it would be like to visit time zero and his love of dogs, music and photography.

 

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When we started our program in Calgary, we were able to hire everybody ourselves and chose them on the basis of their interpersonal skills and ability to be free thinkers. What I found was that if people buy into the process and have a vested interest in its success, then motivating them isn’t hard. So, every policy and procedure was basically created by the actual front-line people. We included them in all the decision making. I think that’s the key, particularly in a work environment; valuing people for what they can do.

 

I’m not afraid to voice my opinions, even if they’re unpopular to people that are higher up than me. You have to be a strong advocate for what you’re trying to do.

 

Courage is doing the right thing even when there is no benefit to you.

 

I really dislike people who exercise their power over others that have no power: whether that’s in society overall or in the work environment. It really burns me when a manager/supervisor treats their staff poorly and I would probably fight against something like that.

 

In the last little bit, my genuine goal has just been to bring the level of care for gastrointestinal patients in Ottawa to an acceptable level for a major teaching hospital. And I think that we’ve accomplished that actually; I think we’ve filled in all the clinical care gaps. We have brought all the advanced skills and procedures available elsewhere (except liver transplant). Now we can concentrate on the academic side.

 

I had the opportunity to go visit the UK where they had implemented, for the first time, quality metrics to measure Endoscopists’ skills. As a result of their success, we adopted it too. If you’re measuring quality and realize that only 80% of physicians can do a full colonoscopy or can’t recognize what they see or can’t remove polyps, then you need to educate them on how to get all to obtain these minimal skills. So, we developed this national hands-on training course where participants observe one another via a video feed. This way more people can watch and learn. When it’s their turn to practice they’ve already benefited from watching previous instruction. This program started off in Calgary. Now we have a centre in almost every teaching hospital in Canada and I am invited to demonstrate this course internationally.

I’ve also been working in the region through outreach and mentorship to try and improve quality. I go to different hospitals to assist them with complex cases. I feel that helping gastroenterologists and surgeons update their skills regionally, not non benefits them, but all their patients as well and works towards ensuring patients get the same quality of care regardless of institution or region.

 

Right now, there’s a complete lack of coordination of our healthcare system. Regionally, this is akin to the tragedy of the commons. Each hospital hires and provides services for a narrow window of needs, but the region as a whole suffers from lack of resources in key identified areas of gastrointestinal disease medical and surgical care. For example: a hospital needs a surgeon or endoscopist, throughout the rest of the region, there are more surgeons and endoscopists than are needed regionally. So rather than collaborate and move surgeons to cover this hospital in need, the hospital just hires yet another surgeon who duplicates services that are not globally needed. I feel that without a true central regional coordinating authority, there really can be no fix for these issues since good will unfortunately only goes so far.

 

If I had one trip in a time-machine I would see what happened at time zero. Another geeky thing about me is my interest in quantum physics. If I hadn’t gone into medicine that might have been a very interesting field. From a philosophical, religious and scientific perspective I’m curious about that moment.

 

My idea of misery is stagnating. I think that personal growth and progress is really important; we all have something to learn. Early on in our careers, my wife Catherine and I felt that we had reached a certain level and that prompted our move from Ottawa to Calgary to take part in developing an the provincial and regional colorectal cancer screening programs from beginning to end. The experience was incredible for both of us. My hope is to give young GI staff opportunities like that here in Ottawa.

 

What I got from my father was his nose, though my mother’s is not a lot better.

 

I grew up in Cairo Egypt until age 6. We moved in part because of the instability in the region. My father was a TV announcer and journalist and my mother was a child psychologist. She did her training at Ohio State University and was constantly back and forth to the States. She got an offer to lead a program for developmentally delayed children so in the context of what was happening they thought, why not move. My Dad never really adopted very well to the move to Canada. Although I definitely believe my brother and I have had a better life here in Canada and I am very grateful for that, I don’t think that my parent’s lives were better. They sacrificed a lot and the instability they were concerned about never really materialized and most of their peers did quite well in Egypt.

 

One characteristic I share with my sibling is my bald head.

 

I’m most proud of my brother for our close relationship. If I need something, I know that he’s gonna be there at a moment notice. And likewise, on the opposite side. We’ve gone through a lot together as a family; my mother had polio when she was a child. My brother and I experienced a decrease in her physical ability when we were living with her and I think that brought us closer.

I knew I was going to become a physician in my early teens. I liked biological sciences and I also really like helping people. Part of it may also have been my mother’s illness. I was attuned to that and felt that it would be nice to be able to do something that was both sciences based and would help people.

 

You don’t know what people are really like until you stick a colonoscope up their butt. I’m joking of course. Unfortunately, in my area, simply because of how invasive the procedures are, it could be the most horrible experience of people’s lives, especially for young people. So, I try and keep things lighthearted in the endoscopy suite whenever possible. I also take the time to explain what’s going to happen and most of the time patients come out saying, “Well, that was a lot better than I thought”.

 

If you learn anything with age, it’s that you have a lot to learn.

 

I think those that are successful are those that can compartmentalize and maintain perspective. I’m not good at either of those. I’m not somebody who is able to go from one task to the next without the previous task possibly distracting me. Or not like people who, when they’re at work, do their work-related stuff, but then when they go home, they’re able to leave all that behind and be 100% focused. I find that really challenging. I am better at it now than I was, but it is still an area of personal growth for me.

 

One rule of parenting: be available.

 

I don’t understand how people can dislike dogs! I like the companionship they bring and the unconditional happiness and love. They’re always super excited to see you. I know its kind of cliché, but it’s true. I also I think it is a real privilege when your dog knows you so well and trusts you that there is this non verbal communication.

 

It’s important to make decisions based on facts, empathy and compassion. But it is important to be decisive.

 

I do my best thinking while walking alone or listening to great music. My parents always listened to music and encouraged me to play some sort of instrument. I’m definitely not a natural. I still have the red guitar I played when I was six years old. My son is a natural. He was never really interested in the technical side, whereas I’m actually way more interested in trying to get the song almost exactly as it was played – try and reproduce that great riff as perfectly as possible. He’s more on the artistic side so he wouldn’t concern himself with getting the song as it was written, but rather make it his own.

 

Part of my stress reducing trick is meditation. My brother works for this big law firm in Toronto and they brought in personal coaches to increase their productivity. I had heard that meditation is great; everybody sings its praises. But then when my brother, through this year long personal coaching, said it really was quite beneficial, I actually started doing it. I started with an app called Headspace. It only takes 10 minutes; I highly recommend it.

 

The most imaginative thing I’ve done as an adult is create a videography from wildlife drone footage. There was a short period of time between moving from Ottawa to Calgary where I wasn’t working and got back into all my old hobbies; flying remote control airplanes and photography for example. I was in the park one day and serendipitously met this group of people from all walks of life who shared my interests, so we started going out before sunrise to photograph bears and wolves – you name it. Then this new remote-control helicopter came out that had four propellers. From the moment that thing came out, we started sticking cameras on it. We were actually at the forefront of developing drones. I even tested them for a company in the US. What I’m into now are these little micro drones that you can fly around the house, inside or out, that have cameras on them. And just so you’re aware, I have a license to fly a drone through taking an online exam. It’s funny because after I passed this exam, I was telling Catherine that this is the best achievement I’ve had in so long.

 

The stupidest argument to have with somebody is about politics or religion.

 

I’m least tolerant of dishonesty in others. It’s hard to work with people if you can’t trust them, especially if they’re being overtly dishonest or untruthful. I find that very challenging.

 

The worst thing in the world is cruelty, or worse, indifference.

 

The habit I’d most like to give up is overthinking.

 

I’d eat rib eye steak all the time if it wasn’t for my health.

 

Everything tastes better when made with 35% cream. The milk in Egypt tasted quite creamy and I loved it. When I met Catherine, she introduced me to eating blueberries and cream with a little sugar. Since then, I’ve been putting cream on everything.

 

My favourite foods are watermelon and mango. Eating them brings back good childhood memories.

 

My willpower is the weakest for giving treats to our dogs.

 

The biggest reward I would pay to get my pet back is almost anything.

 

The best thing I’ve ever gotten for free is my wife.

 

My most prized childhood possessions were Cracker Jack 3D wildlife animal cards. I still have them. Some of them really mimicked motion. I don’t think I really liked the popcorn; it was all about collecting those cards.

 

The most money I’ve spent on something really stupid was a night out at the W Hotel bar in Montreal with residents. I was Program Director at that time attending a Canadian Association of Gastroenterology conference and back in 2004 the thing to do was get taken out by drug reps,  So, on this particular occasion, we were having a great time and when we were about to leave the drug reps were nowhere to be seen. We ended up being stuck with the bill, it was over $12,000! Fortunately, there were a few faculty there to share in the cost, but it was still crazy.

 

The most valuable thing I own are my camera lenses. I got into photography pretty early; public school, I think. I don’t consider myself that artistic, I have to really work hard at it. My favorite subject matter is a nature; both landscape and animals. Without exaggeration I used to take 200 pictures a month with my group back in Calgary. Sadly, I haven’t even taken a hundred pictures in total since I’ve come back to Ottawa.

 

When I was sixteen or seventeen, I wanted to be fighter pilot. I probably wouldn’t have been a physician if I had perfect vision.

 

I chose my subspecialty because somebody’s gotta do it – haha.

 

Technological advancements had a significant influence on my career. I would not have imagined that technology would progress to the point of endoscopic microsurgery and removing early cancer endoscopically. The technical advance I most anticipate is effective endoscopic suturing.

Growing up, ‘cannot’ was not a word I knew. My mother taught me perseverance.

 

My principle fault is impatience. On a scale from one to 10, I’m a 10. I want to see results relatively quickly, whether from a personal or professional standpoint. If I set a goal, I want to see progress. I’m learning to be more patient as time goes on. If you can believe it, I’m much better now than I used to be.

 

The most difficult choice I was forced to make was palliation for my dad.

 

A turning point in my life was accepting that none of us are perfect. We can’t be everything to everyone, so we need to forgive ourselves and others. That takes work.

 

The greatest life-forming experience I’ve ever had was taking on my job in Calgary – it was a big move with two young kids and a new-born and not really knowing anyone out there.

 

The closest I’ve ever come to death was being trapped under a windsurf sail in rough water.

 

The most disgusting thing I’ve ever had to do was using a public bathroom in a third world country with diarrhea.

 

A book that has had a lasting impression on me is The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho. Often the things we are searching for in life are right under our nose.

 

The one non-monetary thing I have the highest hope of obtaining in life is peace of mind.

 

In a Little While, by U2 is a song that is guaranteed to start my day off right.

 

Vin Diesel would portray me in a movie about my life because, unfortunately he’s the only actor that has any resemblance to me, but I probably wouldn’t want him to.

 

I feel I’m on the threshold of a new phase in my career; that I’ve basically accomplished most – I don’t want to say all – of the things professionally that I wanted to accomplish. From Program Director to leading a national organization on education to Chief Examiner for the Royal College to having some publications – not up to the Phil Wells level of publications – but nonetheless enough that I’m satisfied with it. And then I’ve been a leader at the Centre in Calgary and now working on our divisional vision here, but I have no aspirations to become Department Head or anything like that. I am grateful to be an internationally recognized and respected gastroenterologist. Administratively, getting out of the weeds and doing something regionally or provincially if it had a true possibility of change would be interesting, but I think I’d be happy to go back to doing more patient care, teaching and some more research. That would be a nice transition.

Dr. Amel Arnaout

I’ve always been different in every single situation in my life.

Dr. Amel Arnaout

Division of endocrinology & metabolism

Letting go ‘Marie Kondo style’ is a discipline for organizing your belongings, and, by extension, your life. It’s a talent Dr. Amel Arnaout currently doesn’t possess but desperately wants to. After binge watching a whole bunch of Tidying Up episodes on Netflix, Amel followed suit by KonMari-ing her own living space, thanked and said goodbye to things as is part of the ‘process’ and packed a bunch of stuff up to be spirited away. It didn’t last. Clutter problem…not solved.

While that particular solution may have been short lived – btw she’s not adverse to outsourcing now – Amel is by nature a problem solver. And, like Kondo who doesn’t transform people’s homes for them but gives them the tools they need to do it themselves, this endocrinologist slash educator develops tools for her patients and residents to help them navigate their respective worlds of diabetes.

What follows are a collection of thoughts from Dr. Amel Arnaout on, among other things, the most inflexible of travel companions, online shopping and prison.

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I think people see me as different; hopefully interesting. I think they are surprised when they talk to me and I’m not as shy or reserved as they thought. I’ve always been different in every single situation in my life. I’ve always lived either in a country where I looked different or acted different and also by virtue of what I wear or my profession. I don’t see myself as different, but I can definitely sense it when other people are a little bit hesitant or timid to approach me. I try and break those barriers when I see it. I want people to know that I am a genuinely happy person, I’m funny and witty, open to new ideas and love when people engage me in conversation.

The cruelest thing a person has ever said to me is, “you’re in Canada now, you can stop wearing that on your head” or “how can you promote the subjugation of women?”. I should preface that to say that I am Muslim, and I choose to wear a hijab. I’ve been in Canada since I was a teenager, but I didn’t start wearing it until I was in medical school. It was a well thought out conscious decision at that time. I get that sometimes comments like that are not always coming from a point of prejudice, but rather from a point of someone feeling that perhaps as a woman in Islam I’m being forced to do this. But sometimes it’s just plain ignorance, influenced by what people see in the media in terms of how Muslims are portrayed. It’s amazing that this small piece of cloth can at times make people assume I’m dangerous, illiterate or unintelligent. I don’t get angry, but I do try and explain that this is a choice and it’s my choice, they don’t have to agree.

I grew up all over the place. I was born in Taiwan, moved to Jordan then to Canada at the age of 16. My father is Jordanian and an engineer by training, my mother Taiwanese and studied business.

My mom taught me resilience. Nothing fazes her, she is iron woman in my eyes.

What I got from my father was not backing away from opportunities and knowing that I’m capable of doing anything despite what challenges may come. My father is a huge role model, not just for me but for my entire family. He traveled many places for work and never let language be a barrier. He learned to start new businesses for his livelihood and our family wherever he went. For myself and for my sisters, we have always grown up with the notion that we were going to work, that was never even a choice. In life, you’re supposed to work hard and strive to do better.

Growing up, ‘quit’ was not a word I knew. My parents were not very prescriptive in what they expected of us, but the expectation to persevere was there for sure. There was ‘no, I can’t do this so I’m going to quit this sport or event’. If we asked to do it, we needed to see it through to the end.

Sibling psychology is really interesting. In my family, there’s four of us – all girls – and we’re very close in age. In some ways I think we are each other’s closest ally, but also each other’s biggest competitor.

When I was twelve, I wanted to be an astronaut. I am so interested in space. It’s the idea that there’s just so much out there we don’t know. It’s vast. It’s beautiful. It’s exciting to think of this entire expanse that is more or less completely unexplored. The space shuttle Challenger event was devastating for me as a child. I cried for weeks afterward. It was just heartbreaking to see what happened to those people and that program.

A turning point in my life was losing my sight in medical school. I had a retinal detachment requiring surgery in both eyes and lost 70 % of my eyesight. It was right around resident match time and it really threw everything up in the air. I wasn’t sure I was going to graduate because I wasn’t sure I was even going to be able to write the Licentiate of the Medical Council of Canada exam. Thankfully I had my family; they were very supportive. Those three to four months were probably the most challenging of my life but I always felt that at the end of the day it would all work out and I’d find something to do that would allow me to feel fulfilled. After several surgeries over the years, I am happy to say that I have almost 20/20 vision now.

Courage is telling the truth even when it negatively impacts you. I think it’s sometimes easier just to portray yourself as someone who knows what they’re doing, who’s super confident and who does everything right. But I think it’s also important to step back and say, no, I can’t do this or I’m having difficulty with this or even, I made a mistake.

A really big test of how kind a human being is, is their open acceptance of other people’s values and ideas.

It is important not to make decisions based on a temporary emotional reaction. I try not to make any decisions when I am tired or stressed and purposely tell myself to wait.

One characteristic/hobby I share with my siblings is our love of travel.

You don’t know what people are really like until you go on a trip with them; that includes people you thought you knew really well. I love traveling with other people, but I’m a go with the flow type and don’t feel the need to stick to an agenda . Also, how people adapt to change in sleep, food and culture can be interesting to observe. You can really find out what a person truly cares about by how they want to prioritize their time.

There’s no such thing as shortcuts in life, hard work pays off.

One rule of parenting: stay calm; just being there is doing something.

My definition of smart is knowing your limitations and maximizing your strengths. The best advice I was ever given was focus on what you do best.

The most indulgent thing I do each day or week is online shopping (more like monthly but I wish it was each day!). I’m guilty of being an Amazon lover. It’s such a convenience and so much faster. I do a lot of shopping online for my children; for their sports equipment and school stuff. I love to check in on my favorite stores and see what’s new. Sometimes I end up buying nothing. I do have a weakness for shoes and handbags, but who doesn’t?

The thing I’d find most difficult about being in prison would be the outfits; orange is really not my colour.

When I wake up in the morning I think of coffee! I do my best thinking in the morning when it is quiet, after I’ve had my coffee and I’m out for a run.

My stress reducing trick is talking to my husband; he puts things in perspective.

I have three children who are all in competitive sports, so my husband and I are ships passing through the night. Our daily life is a complicated process of trying to figure out who’s responsible for what. The best ritual of each day is having dinner with the family, no matter how late it is.

You have to give people permission to help you. I think it’s become easier for me over the years. For a long time – perhaps because of being a female physician and trying to always feel like you can do it all – I just never really thought that I could ask for help. But now I’m trying to ask more. I can’t say I’m always successful, but if people offer help, I will accept it.

I’ve always had a ‘can do’ attitude but as my husband often says, ‘you can’t volunteer your time when you don’t have any’.

The stupidest argument to have with somebody is who does more housework.

I don’t like it when people say, “I deserve this or that”.

The best way to get things moving is to start moving.

I am motivated by those around me who believe in me.

If I’ve learned any truths in life, it’s this: people – adults – do not fundamentally change.

In high school I was very good at academic subjects and PE and terrible at drama.

When I was 8 or 9 years old, I was part of a dance studio and asked to do a fashion show for kids clothing. The theme was African safari and I was supposed to be a lion trainer or something because was dressed in stirrup pants, boots and had to carry a long whip which I was supposed to crack as I walked down the runway. I remember being terrified that I would accidentally whip someone’s head in the audience! 

The most imaginative thing I’ve done as an adult is learn to ski. If you witnessed my many epic falls you would understand.

The 1990s fashion trend that I miss the most is coloured tights.

I’d eat potato chips all the time if it wasn’t for my health. There I’ve said it – shocking revelation for an Endocrinologist. I have my emergency bag of chips ready for really stressful days – Ruffles All Dressed.

My greatest guilty pleasure TV show is Game of Thrones. It’s so violent but I love it anyway because it shows the extremes of human character.

Travelling to experience a new culture is life’s greatest luxury and if I could only pack 3 things to travel to an unknown destination, they would be comfortable shoes, a credit card and an empty suitcase. I’ve actually done that. People are shocked with how little I pack when I travel. My intention is to fill the suitcase while I’m away. I enjoy buying interesting things: clothing, or a nice piece of jewellery, a fun hat – memories to take home. I recently bought an old fashioned, but very effective juicer from Agadir, Morocco. I was inspired by the fresh squeezed OJ every morning at the seaside cafe and the pomegranate juice carts in the local markets where vendors had arms of steel from making glass after glass! We used it constantly when we got home.

Cadiz, Spain is my favourite city. It’s out of the way, beautiful and full of history. It’s also got great food and amazing views.

My favourite activity outside of the hospital is relaxing at the cottage.

My greatest extravagance is kids; they’re expensive.

The silliest thing I own is a cat AND a bird.

The technical advance I most anticipate is a true artificial pancreas.

I picked the work that I’m doing now based on what I liked, not based on limitations. People often say, ‘how come your sister’s a surgeon and you’re not?’ In medical school they asked us to decide whether we were a thinker or a doer. As a doer you try to fix something right away and then that’s it. And a thinker is someone who tries to figure out the problem, put the puzzle pieces together and then rethink again when things are not exactly right. I’m a thinker. I’m very gratified by the work that I do and like the type of patients that I follow. I see them from age 18 to over a hundred. I could potentially be following them for that entire time. With endocrinology I get to really know my patients as individuals and share their experiences through the entire journey. That really appeals to me as a thinking person.

This field right now is changing, particularly in diabetes and with respect to the traditional doctor patient relationship. Patients are going to have access to tools that will help them live their lives and self-manage better. We have to learn to accept that our role may be more of a coach. I’m embracing it.

The closest I’ve ever come to death was almost drowning as a child. It was at night. I was sitting on a chair and tipped over into the deep end of a pool. I remember seeing the surface getting further and further away from me. And then my dad jumped in and saved me. I still remember thinking ‘why is dad jumping in with his shoes?’ Now I have a cottage and I love to swim.

I feel I’m on the threshold of self-contentment. I mean there are always things that you wish were different, but I feel very lucky. I’ve gotten everything that I’ve ever really wanted in life.

If I had to write my autobiography using only 6 words, it would be “I am who I am – so there!”. ‘Never trying to be something that you’re not,’ is important and something that I role model to my children. Perhaps I struggled with self-esteem issues when I was a teenager. Part of my path towards self-contentment is really accepting who I am and knowing that at this stage of my life I’m probably not going to change.

I speak English, Chinese, Taiwanese, Arabic and, I can probably get away with French, but that would be very limited.

My unknown talent is horseback riding – racing and show jumping. I started at a young age but haven’t done it in years. Owning a horse has never really been a feasible thing for me living in Canada. But I will own a horse again one day because completing the 100 km equestrian trail race is on my bucket list.

My primary goal and passion has always been patient care but through the process of my clinical work I have had many opportunities to either teach, supervise or be involved in education. I never said no to any of it and sometimes it was at the expense of my personal or clinical time. But I love to teach. When my friend Dr. Janine Malcolm stepped down from being Program Director it was a natural progression for me to take on that role.

I love the part of the job where I get to know the residents, especially finding out the types of careers they want so I can support them by building a program to get them to their specific goal.

When the Faculty of Medicine first started to recruit for their Distinguished Teachers Program, they reached out to teachers who were ranked in the top 10% of medical student evaluations. I was one of them. Unfortunately, that first year I just couldn’t enroll. At that time, I was a full-time clinician and carving out 160 hours would have been quite difficult. So, I planned for it and enrolled in the second cohort. It was a great experience being able to teach things I’d never taught before and sharing ideas with likeminded people who also loved to teach.

During that time, I was the content expert for endocrinology and wanted to revamp the curriculum. I started thinking about ways I could teach diabetes differently. And not just for medical students, for our residents as well. So, I developed a bootcamp where our learners get to live the life of an individual with diabetes and wear the technologies, we actually give our patients. We asked them to record, document and test the same way that we ask our patients. After a week we have a round table discussion to talk about the experience. This type of experiential learning is something I’m very interested in. While I was aware that there were other ways to teach, without the experience of the Distinguished Teachers program, I’m not sure it would have thought to go there.

Dr. Rakesh Patel

Most of my professional —and probably personal life —has just been making it up as I go along.

Dr. Rakesh Patel

Divisions of critical care & internal medicine

Rakesh Patel doesn’t care about formal titles — he cares about people. Working with, and influencing people in the pursuit of social justice, creating equitable access and most importantly, doing the ’right thing’. He’s passionate about learners and is most proud of his role as Program Director, having coached 44 residents through the Department’s Adult Critical Care Medicine post-graduate residency program.

MONEY TO ME means I can travel with my niece and nephews to weird and cool places and provide them with a university education, then they are on their own! I don’t have any kids, so my brother’s kids are my surrogate experiences. They live 3500 miles away in Oregon. I’ve missed seeing them grow up — except through Facetime every Saturday or Sunday. And so, my great joy in life is travelling and eating with them whenever possible because that’s what I like to do. Travel is also a form of education —it’s not being afraid of the unknown, meeting people who don’t look like you and experiencing places outside of your comfort zone.

OUTSIDERS by S.E. Hinton had a lasting impression on me. It described kids like me, high school age, growing up on the poorer side of town. It opened my eyes to possibility, creating your own opportunities, remaining a decent human being and fostered my love of reading.

I KNOW IT SOUNDS CORNY, but I still love the characters, lines, music and sappiness of “Casablanca”. Best movie line of all time is Rick to Ilsa: “Sure, I remember Paris, the Germans wore grey, you wore blue…” It was one of the best movies ever made!

I WENT TO MED SCHOOL at age 31. I was not one of these kids who grew up wanting to be a doctor, I just wanted to fly jumbo jets. But my high school counsellor said, “you’re too short to fly a plane”, and I was crushed.

ONE THING I SHARE with my sibling is a love of Liverpool FC and the English premiership. I probably wouldn’t have been a physician-teacher if I was good enough to be a holding midfielder for England’s national football team.

INITIALLY I DID a Pharmacy degree with a doctor of Pharmacy because when you get sick you get a pill and that pill makes you better. I was curious about what happened in the body; what was the pill’s magic that made my headache go away or my fever go away — it just seemed pretty cool.

I WENT TO DETROIT to work in an ICU because at that time clinical pharmacology — from a pharmacist’s point of view — was still quite a fledgling endeavour and Henry Ford Hospital was leading-edge. And I also wanted to live close to the inner city, to experience what life was like in that part of the States. And there was crime and oppression, it was poor, there was lack of opportunity — all of that. I learned so much working there; from a social, political and medical aspect. I’d do it again in a heart beat!

AT 31 I asked myself ’is this what I want to be doing when I’m 45?’ and the answer was no. I knew I had to do something else or I was going to be bored out of my tree. McMaster had a shorter three-year med program and I thought, ’hey if I do medicine for three years it probably won’t hurt me; I may not like it but I could probably do other stuff with it like work for a drug company recreating the magic’. I kid you not, that’s literally why I went into med school.

I GOT INTO THIS HEATED debate about reverse racism in Detroit with the community panel during my med school interview; where successful Black Americans were looked down upon by Black Americans who were not successful. They were called “Oreos.” I remember going back to Detroit thinking I had done okay, that the interview was kind of fun, if I get in meh, if I don’t, whatever. I had no idea that this interview was supposed to be the hardest med school interview you’ll ever go through so I wasn’t nervous, I was just myself. And I got in.

THE HISTORICAL FIGURE I most identify with is Robert F. Kennedy. He sought to change things, he did the hard things and did things differently because it was the right thing to do.

I WAS A JUNIOR FACULTY when I took over as Program Director. At the time, there was a resident who was struggling and making serious errors in judgement but for 18 months nobody said anything and probably thought that it was somebody else’s problem — until it got to me. So, I built a case and essentially had to fire him because he was just incompetent. There was tremendous resistance from the physicians who said, “how can you possibly do this to this guy, he’s only got six more months?”, but it was unethical to allow somebody like that to call themselves an Intensivist. I just did the logical thing. Either you have the courage or you don’t. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.

MY MOST PASSIONATE PURSUIT is with learners but my advocacy on behalf of the role of clinician teachers has been the most important. I don’t want to be considered a clinician educator or clinician teacher or clinician researcher. Why can’t I do all of that? That ’slotting’ into a category — I just abhor it. Why can’t I be recognized for all the stuff that I do rather than what I do in a particular slot? I do a lot of things that can’t be counted but that doesn’t mean they don’t count. Not everybody understands that.

I THINK PEOPLE see me as honourable and someone they can trust implicitly.

DR. GWYNNE JONES had a significant influence on my career. The man is a giant and he allowed me to stand on his shoulders and learn about the Art of Medicine — the stuff only a master teacher/physician can teach. He is my Yoda!

THE BEST ADVICE I was ever given was ’don’t be dependent upon anyone’.

MY DEFINITION of smart is knowing how to survive in the real world and not the gilded world of ivory-tower academia.

THERE WAS A QUOTE in a book I read once by a guy named Lee Iacocca. He was fired from Ford Motor Company and then he went to Chrysler and turned it around. In his book he said, “All we have around here is people, and if you can’t get along with people, you can’t help me”. And that’s true, I think it’s all about how you interact with people. With leadership, it comes down to people skills.

WHO ELSE BUT Al Pacino would portray me in a movie about my life.

PLAYING THE SAXOPHONE like Clarence Clemmons [part of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band] is the talent I’d most like to have that I currently don’t possess. I love that instrument’s sound — it’s a bedrock of the blues, jazz and their baby, rock n roll.

FEAR IS when I have to tell children that one of their parents is going to die in the ICU today and I cannot change that [I’ve had to do that about 5 times now]. Or when I have a leg cramp while swimming and I am in the middle of the damn lake! Or I am caught in an elevator, alone, with a Catholic Priest.

MOST OUT OF OFFICES are endlessly boring and I’d like to think I have a really good sense of humour and I’m not afraid to be out there. I got a reply to one of them once from the Head of the Committee to Evaluate Drugs who said, “hey, I totally get where you’re coming from, I love them but you’ve got to remember that you’re in the public eye and I would advise you not to do this anymore.” And I said, “thank you for your advice, I’ll take it under advisement but I’m not changing”. Sometimes I draft them ’off the cuff’ but sometimes I spend a bit more time crafting, and the crafting tends to be because I can’t swear. I feel pressure now, that’s the monster I’ve created. Some place in my inner consciousness I probably want to be a writer. It’s a nice outlet to combine humour and writing and mix the politics of the day, if you will.

GEORGE CARLIN — comic genius — always makes me laugh.

I’M INCAPABLE of killing somebody or eating seafood. I literally mean I’m incapable of killing somebody, no matter how angry I could be at them. And, I just can’t stand the taste of seafood. I just don’t get it!

LAST SATURDAY, I was paddle boarding at Lac Ste. Marie, then I started reading Cutting for Stone with a 21-year-old Highland Park whisky in my right hand, on the deck. It was total bliss.

THIS MORNING, I made a cup of Chai and had some delicious homemade Gujarati snacks while nursing a horrible man-cold that I picked up somewhere at Lac Ste. Marie. My bliss was short-lived!

MY GREATEST extravagance is whisky. I grew up in England and could not stand the taste of beer. When I tasted whiskey I just fell in love. And then it progressed to single malt because I could afford it! I did a golf and whiskey tour of Scotland in 2012 with my former colleague Mike Tierney. We golfed at St. Andrews and a bunch of other famous places and rented an old fishing house right on the Bay amongst the fisherman in a town called Pittenweem. Every night we’d find a bar and I would taste a different whiskey. Heaven by amber nectar!

THE TECHNICAL ADVANCE I most anticipate is that patients will return to wanting the human interaction despite all the noise about technology. Tech cannot hold your hand, look you in the eye and comfort you like a human being.

ONE THING I NEVER leave the house without is my cell phone — it really does have all that I need and I resisted getting one until 4 years ago!

MY IDEAL HOLIDAY is visiting far off places in the wilderness. I’m just back from the Galapagos islands — aka the real Jurassic park. My favourite city is Hong Kong. It never closes or sleeps, it’s so alive, has such brilliant food, it’s inexpensive and there is so much to do.

MY GREATEST PERSONAL achievement is that I used the opportunity my factory worker folks gave me to get an education — that was their most important gift.

MY GREATEST REGRET is not marrying Sylvia Di Sisto in Grade 13 — oh what a fool I was! I’ve tried to Google her [laughs] but I’m sure she’s married now as a typical Italian young lady would be and I don’t know what her last name is anymore. We first met in grade 7. She was refreshing because she was totally into sports. She knew stuff about sports that no guy knew, like college basketball — and this was in the days before internet. She just blew me away.

ONE PRESENT I will always be happy to receive is a homemade chocolate chip cookie.

IF I’VE LEARNED ANY TRUTHS in life, it’s this: remain curious, remain humble and care about what you do; whatever it is, it will help you do the right thing.

I HAVE NO idea what’s next for me. Most of my professional and probably personal life has just been making it up as I go along. I’m not a good five or ten-year planner. If tomorrow somebody said, “hey you could be X” and it sounded cool, I might take it on but it would always depend on what the job is, not what the title is. And it wouldn’t mean that I would stop working as a physician because I’m not ready to give that part up. I’ve just taken on a position with the committee to evaluate drugs at the Ministry of Health which helps the Ontario government decide which drugs to pay for from a formulary perspective. And I’ve taken on the same position at a national level.

RIGHT NOW, I’m in a ’maintain my health’ and’ desperately trying to make medicine only a part of my life (not all of my life)’ phase. As I’m in my early 50s, I’m kind of thinking, ’okay, been there done that, now what?’. I’m trying to create some space to do something else. Subconsciously I probably work in 20 year cycles.

I STILL THINK at some point I’ll take flying lessons… just to prove to myself that I probably could fly a jumbo jet!

Dr. Alison Dugan

There’s no such thing as being too old to run through the sprinkler.

Dr. Alison Dugan

Division of general internal medicine

Dr. Alison Dugan has a long and passionate history with medical education. Her philosophy about teaching has developed over the years through a variety of educational exposures like revising the entire Undergrad Medicine curriculum, running the International Medical Graduate Program, developing feedback workshops and guiding small groups of learners through her CBL teaching. Today she is putting a big emphasis on a part of the curriculum that she feels is vital, but not always acknowledged or evaluated, and that is the importance of communication.

I CHOSE Internal Medicine as my subspecialty because I liked all of it so well and really didn’t have to memorize the coagulation cascade.

WHEN I WAS SIXTEEN or seventeen I wanted to be an astronaut.

I PROBABLY WOULDN’T have been a physician if it had required 2nd year university physics.

LAST SATURDAY, I went for walk around downtown Boston before going to school for a week. I went to do the Harvard intensive internal Medicine Review Course because sometimes I think, ’am I on top of all this stuff?’. You work from seven in the morning until seven at night for eight days in a row. So, I arrived a day early and snuck in a bit of down time before the craziness started.

I DID AN ENGLISH lit degree before I went to medical school. I knew I wanted to study medicine but while I was sitting there in life sciences I thought, I don’t really want to study this. So, I changed and did Victorian literature…restoration literature… Chaucer… Shakespeare. Typically, we teach our medical students in the science track and don’t necessarily get them to think so much about the humanities. Reading books makes you understand things about people. I think we may be missing something there.

HISTORICALLY, medicine’s curriculum has been heavily weighted to facts with not so much focus on communication and emotions. People are emotional and they care about feeling connected.

GOOD COMMUNICATION is such an important part of what we do in so many jobs and yet we don’t really acknowledge that it’s important…or talk to people about how to do it well —especially in groups. Yet when I look at my colleagues and residents on the wards who do it well, it’s just such an obvious asset — to be able to listen to other people, to recognize when they have an emotional response to something and to be sympathetic.

MY IDEA OF MISERY is being stuck on parliament Hill during a celebration.

MY GREATEST JOY in life is a canoe trip with my kids.

MY PRINCIPLE FAULT is my irrepressible desire to question authority, and challenging doing things just because of “rules”, when sometimes the rules are just wrong.

YOU DON’T KNOW what people are really like until you see them tired and hungry.

THE BEST ADVICE I was ever given was listen more, talk less.

IF I COULD ONLY pack 3 things in my suitcases to travel to an unknown destination, they would-be a Kobo reader with unlimited battery power, my mouth guard and a light sabre.

CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND is my favourite city in the world. I spent 2 years working there. It was a great job, I had great friends, tons of adventures and the most beautiful country right out my front door. It was just a wonderful place to live but it was on the other side of the world and my family was all here. It was not a simple decision… we, my ex-husband and I, spent evenings making pros and cons lists for both places to determine whether we would come back or not. Jeff Turnbull was Head of our Department at the time and I can say quite frankly that he was one of the strong reasons for me coming back.

RIGHT FROM THE MOMENT I arrived in Ottawa I was involved in medical education — when Alan Karovitch and I took over as co-chairs of the Medicine Clerkship. We basically revised the entire curriculum, including the exam, and introduced the initial version of Problem Assisted Learning Sessions (PALs). Back when we were training, Alan and I would round and do physical exams daily, but our medical students didn’t always get that same opportunity so we also introduced physical exam teaching which, as far as I was concerned, was extremely important.

IT WAS ALSO important to teach the students about the role physio, occ health and social work played so we started sessions called ’Who Else Are on the Team’ to help them understand and navigate the barriers to a person being able to get home. Medical students are eager learners. If you teach them right they can learn to be doctors who really understand that it’s not just about the 17 causes of heart failure. It’s also about the wife who, when she gets home must pick up medications, which might be difficult if she can’t leave the house because the patient has other issues. That’s where I started in medical education. I did that job for 10 to 15 years.

I REALLY LIKE working with the medical students because of their enthusiasm — that combination of happiness they have when they get into medical school and the fact that they are very open and respectful and you feel like they are waiting on every word you say. I see this all the time as part of the CBL teaching I do.

I WAS IN A MEDICAL SCHOOL with 85 students and got 8 hours of lectures a day. As part of CBL, my guys sit in groups of eight and discuss how to solve a problem. This format allows the students to be more fluent, and consider scenarios like ’what if this was a different gender or age?’ In fact, it was the students who said, “when we do it the same way all the time we don’t really feel like we’re really getting our chops”. In this setting they each have to contribute to the conversation but not take too much air time and squeeze other people out.

 

I WAS ALSO responsible for running the International Medical Graduate Program for 7 or 8 years and was involved with the group in Toronto that reviewed the results of the screening exam and the Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE) and then there would be a match. Three to eight people would be deployed to Ottawa and I’d develop curriculum specifically designed to meet their needs in order for them to transition into applying for residency here in Canada.

MY SENSE of humour is never disrespectful. I use humour a lot in my teaching because medicine is a very heavy duty topic and it helps take the edge off how difficult it can be. I think it’s a way to bond the team and make it through a long day.

MAYBE I’M WRONG, but I think the world would work much better if instead of trying to find jobs that earned the most money, we tried to find a job that made us REALLY want to get out of bed in the morning and validated uses people.

I DON’T UNDERSTAND how people would rather watch a sport than play one.

WORDS OR PHRASES I should use more often are: Don’t make me wave my wooden spoon at you!

I DON’T LIKE IT when people say, ’what are you having?’ at a restaurant. Are you asking me that so you can decide what you’re having? It’s a funny question, I don’t know why people ask that.

I AM MOTIVATED by chocolate in most forms.

I HAVE A RULE in life: leave room for dessert.

AS YOU GET OLDER, you get more comfortable looking silly while having fun, rather than looking good and having no fun.

I THINK you do your best when you like yourself.

THE THREE GREATEST WORDS in the English language are: honesty, kindness and empathy…or supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, onomatopoeia and slither.

CLEAN SHEETS (especially flannel) are one of life’s greatest luxuries.

THE AFTERNOON of my dreams would include a bike ride, a swim and a nap!

ONE PRESENT I will always be happy to receive is a new book I haven’t read or wool for knitting… but there isn’t room on my bookshelves or in my closets for any more of either.

MY FATHER was a Physics student and later a University Professor and my mother was a California dreamer — born in California and raised in San Diego. She studied social work and had a very strong sense of what she thought was the right thing to do. We lived in Boston when my Dad was getting his PhD and my parents had five kids before he got a real job in Canada as a professor — talk about stressful. My Mom had never seen snow. I was eight. 

I’VE BEEN SHAPED by growing up with four siblings and not much money, and lots of tasks to do.

WHAT I GOT from my father was an understanding of the importance of civility and good manners.

MY GREATEST professional achievement was convincing my colleagues to recruit Alan Karovitch! I think he’s a Mensch: he’s honest, ethical, smart… he’s just a superstar. I have a huge amount of respect for him. He’s just a really excellent role model. There was a point in a conversation when it could have gone either way and I’m like, “you cannot let this guy go.” He absolutely should be here, he’s like a rock star.

I DON’T FEEL super comfortable blowing my own horn but what I’ll say is that what patients tell me almost all the time when I give them an explanation about something is “nobody‘s ever explained it like that before, and I really appreciate you taking the time and helping me to understand it”. I think that when patients understand, they can manage much better. I would say my biggest educational accomplishment is conveying that to the residents that come and work with me on an ongoing basis.

I ALWAYS wanted a horse. All four girls in my family are horse crazy. As kids, all our games were imaginary where we’d scoop up the leaves in the fall and make stables, then we’d pretend to sleep in the trees while the horses were sleeping.

I’D LIKE TO BE transported into the movie avatar because like I said, I wanted to be an astronaut. Touching the plants that would disappear and riding the winged creatures would be so cool. And the message of respect for the environment and for other living creatures — I thought there were a lot of really nice themes in that movie.

CHARLTON HESTON would portray me in movie about my life. You’ve got to watch the ten Commandments or Ben Hur and then you’ll understand. I’m kidding of course.

IF I HAD TO WRITE my autobiography using only 6 words it would be “MUM and doctor, best jobs ever!”. My Dad and I were out walking —probably 10 years ago or so — and he asked something having to do with my life and I replied, ’you do know that having and bringing my kids up has been the most amazing thing I’ve ever done’. And he was completely shocked because he thought I would be most proud of my career in medicine. I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to raise my kids and have job like being a doctor.

Dr. Kevin Burns

You go through lot of phases in life. Right now, I’m well past my best-before date.

Dr. Kevin Burns

Division of Nephrology

Dr. Kevin Burns is one of Canada’s most influential kidney researchers, but not just for his impressive grant and publication stats and the impact his research has had on care but for the passion and commitment he invested to establish and develop KRESCENT, a national training program designed to attract and sustain kidney researchers in Canada. Kevin shares what he learned from a life dedicated to medicine including the unexpected tragic death of a sibling, a life altering pep talk from a supportive father and a recent and surprising medical diagnosis.

MY PRINCIPLE FAULT is a lack of patience. Recently one of my lab people ordered reagent and it didn’t come in so the experiment didn’t get done. At the lab meeting they said “oh, don’t worry it’s coming in next week”, and I said, “next week? That’s way too long! Pick up the phone and tell them you need it yesterday”. I have very little patience for accepting the norm, just figure out a way to get it done. To the point that sometimes people around me will say “wow, that guy doesn’t understand, he really needs to relax.”

IN HIGH SCHOOL, I was very good at mathematics and terrible at dating girls. I was terrified to talk to anyone from the opposite sex– absolutely terrified! It was only in university that I even started speaking to girls.

WHEN I WAS SIXTEEN OR SEVENTEEN I wanted to be a biologist or an artist. I used to like drawing and painting and had a bit of talent. Teachers in high school encouraged me to pursue art but my father would say “you know it’s pretty tough out there to be an artist so maybe you should stick with science, you’re good at it”. And there was no question that I was good cat it. I loved analytical stuff anyway so I kind of gave the art up. I bought some paints a few years ago and painted a few things but then stopped – just for lack of time. Maybe one day…

I KNOW IT SOUNDS CORNY, but my wife Francine is my best friend.

MY GREATEST REGRET is not having 10 kids. I have three sons: two stepsons and my son William, who’s now 16. I was an older Dad and loved the experience of having a young baby and all the stuff you needed to do in those early years. And then as he got older I enjoyed bringing him to the arena for hockey and an opportunity to socialize with other people — it really broadened my horizons. Before fatherhood, I had the blinders on by research and medicine. Up until that point I was a self-centered narcissist. Then you have a child and suddenly the world is not yours anymore, it’s somebody else’s. Being completely responsible for somebody else is very healthy, so… the more kids the better.

I KNEW I WAS GOING TO BECOME a physician when I opened the acceptance letter from med. school. All bets were off until then. And actually, I almost dropped out my third year. Even though I was really book smart, as soon as we got into the hospital setting and convert knowledge to practice — I couldn’t handle it. I could analyze things; I just couldn’t deal with all the pressures of the hospital environment. So, I came home one evening and called my dad and said, “listen, I don’t think this is for me, I’m just finding it too hard. I think I should go into engineering. Tomorrow I’m going to dropout”. I was living in downtown Montreal at the time, going to McGill and he was living in Laval, which is about a 45-minute drive, and the next thing you know he’s knocking on my door. I remember it like it was yesterday — he was very kind and supportive and said “let me help you, what is it that you’re having trouble with? Let’s go through your patients”. He had no knowledge of medicine but could put things in perspective. He helped me get organized and figure out some simple things that I could do to get through the day. He told me “you can do this”. That talk prevented me from making a knee-jerk decision that would have been big mistake.

I’M INCAPABLE OF sitting still. I was always fidgety and had little ticks as a child. People in my family would point out that I kept touching my chair a lot…my nose, things that I didn’t notice. I’ve had those all my life. My leg jumps when I’m sitting so I don’t like sitting for a long time. Francine especially doesn’t like it. When we’re out she’s always telling me to stop moving.

I HAVE A RULE IN LIFE: Promise nothing, deliver everything.

MY STRESS reducing trick is running/exercise.

 

I GREW UP in Chomedey, Laval. My father was an electronics salesman. My mother was a secretary and taught me to be myself and be satisfied with that. I was raised to be independent due to the dynamics in my family. I was the second child. A lot of attention was devoted to my older brother even though he was very outgoing. He had some issues we could see early in life, started having depressions as a teenager and was diagnosed as bipolar. So, a lot of the energy in the house surrounded him. I took care of myself so my parents never had to worry about me.

I WAS VERY CLOSE to my brother, he was quite successful, very, very smart and funny. He was also studying to be a doctor. Sadly, with only three months left before completing med school, he committed suicide. Up until that time in my life I had never been exposed to personal tragedy. It obviously had a huge impact on me as it would on anybody in any family. It took me a good decade to really recover and get my life in order. I went through some bad years and had to get therapy. It was devastating. On a positive note, I have much more empathy now for people with mental illness. Too often I’ve seen situations where others don’t have that kind of empathy. I’m totally healed. Our family can, and still talk about it, and it’s something I carry every day —you never forget, it’s always there.

I THINK PEOPLE SEE ME as aloof or intimidating. People have told me that actually. So, when you hear it enough you think, ‘well, it’s probably true’. Perhaps it’s because I’m quiet and have a serious demeanour and I can sometimes speak forcefully about things in meetings or even one on one. But I’m disappointed to hear that, so that’s why I’m softening with time. Intimidation to me means that someone is fearful of responding or saying something because of the way you are. And that’s not something I would encourage at all.

AT NIH IN BETHESDA, MARYLAND there was scientist by the name of Mo Burg who discovered how-to perfuse kidney tubules —he was a giant in the field and the nicest man I ever met. I spent a day with him and was so impressed that I knew I wanted to work with him. But I was also scheduled to visit the Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville and it was also great. So, I went to one of my mentors for advice and he says to me, “you know, Dr. Burg is getting a little bit up in years. What if you get down there and he suddenly says he’s retiring and then you’ll be stuck with nobody?” So, I went to Nashville. And then every single annual meeting of the American Society of Nephrology I went to I would see Dr. Burg — no kidding. Even now! He obviously didn’t retire then and he must be in his late 80s now. And believe it or not he’s still doing research.

I SPENT MOST OF MY CAREER studying the renin angiotensin system in the kidney. But most recent work I’m doing is a complete 180 from that. I’ve always been interested in acute kidney injury, where patients suddenly lose kidney function for a variety of reasons such as infections, post operatively, blood loss — the kidneys just shut down. Up to 50% of patients in the ICU have this in various grades but if you have the severe form of what we call acute kidney injury or AKI, there’s a very high mortality rate — about 50%. There are absolutely no treatments despite 50 years of research; either to prevent it or to enhance the recovery of kidneys which have the capacity to regenerate once they’ve been injured.

SEVERAL YEARS AGO, there was literature starting to come out which asked the question ‘do stem cells help kidneys regenerate?’ So, I linked up with David Allen in Hematology who was isolating core blood and core blood cells at the time and we began to collaborate, along with Dylan Burger at the Kidney Research Centre. Fast forward past some initial failures to today and our current success. My lab is discovering the therapeutic properties of small extracellular vesicles (exosomes) derived from human cord blood endothelial colony-forming cells. To date, we’ve already shown that injecting specific microRNA, (miR-486-5p) isolated from these exosomes into the mice can repair the kidneys. Now I’m working with a PhD scientist at uOttawa who’s interested in nanomedicine to create particles called nanoparticles that we think might be used to package this microRNA to deliver and target the kidneys in larger animals — that’s the next step.

I’M VERY HOPEFUL, it’s the most exciting thing I’ve done in my career in research. Every time I go into the lab I’m blown away by what we’re finding. Usually with research it’s very incremental and iterative but our data has been off the charts right from the beginning. I’ve always been very skeptical; you learn to be as a scientist. Always thinking that this can’t be true, let’s do it again. But this time I’m very excited. But, because I’m getting in the late stages of my career I know that we’ve got to move this quick. I’m hopeful that my recent 5-year grant and the research it supports will someday lead directly to novel treatment strategies for AKI in humans.

YOU DON’T KNOW what people are really like until you have a few beers with them.

SLEEP is life’s greatest luxury. Last Saturday, I slept in until about 9:00 a.m., then fixed my ride-on mower. I watched a YouTube video to guide me through the repair otherwise there’s no way I would have known what to do. Francine can tell you stories about me screwing up small renovation projects. I love that stuff but I’m terrible at it and I’m in awe of people who come by it naturally.

I DO MY BEST THINKING in the early morning, alone when I’m in my office with no calls or emails. I get up around 5:30 a.m. and get to work early. It’s probably the best time of day for me to think and when I tend to write.

MY MOST MARKED CHARACTERISTIC besides shyness is a good sense of humour. Humour for me is one of the things I love most about living. Comedy, humour and having a sense of humour will get you through anything. That’s my raison d’être. Francine says I tend to be funny when I’m in front of an audience, that it comes kind of naturally even though I dislike public speaking. I think it’s a good ice breaker for me.

FEAR is when your 16-year-old son starts driving.

WORDS I SHOULD USE MORE OFTEN are ’thank you’. It’s something I sometimes neglect to say to acknowledge people who have done good or nice things. I’ve got to be more appreciative of what people do. It’s a weakness. It’s a problem. I’m working on it.

I AM MOTIVATED by stories of great leaders. To compete in life, you’ve got to believe in your abilities and then to become good at anything you should practice, practice, practice. When I really want something, I am relentless.

FLORENCE OR BARCELONA are my favourite cities because I love the ambience, art and romance.

I ALWAYS WANTED an electric guitar. If after I died I could choose to come back as something, it would be a rock star because I love rock music, in fact I’m trying to learn how to play guitar. Ever since I was a teenager I’ve been going to rock concerts and it always seemed to be the dream life — the music and the performance. Not the drugs.

WATCHING HOCKEY is the perfect outlet for me. I’m a Sens super-fan. But my favourite activity outside of the hospital is playing golf. The afternoon of my dreams would include a golf game, then a cruise on the Gatineau river.

MY GREATEST PROFESSIONAL ACHIEVEMENT is establishing a national kidney research training program (KRESCENT) designed to attract people into this field. It was a tremendous amount of work but I enjoyed it because I had this idea that it was going to be good for the future of Nephrology in Canada. Almost 70 trainees have graduated, many of whom are top notch researchers. It’s become a model for other research training programs in Canada.

IT HAS BEEN extremely gratifying and humbling to see all those young people succeed.

WHY DID I STEP DOWN from KRESCENT? Last summer I was diagnosed with an illness; I have Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL). It was out of the blue and showed up with blood work. So, after speaking with Francine I knew I had to make some changes in my life and gave up several administrative roles. I’m not shy to talk about it but I don’t want sympathy. Other people have much more serious issues that they’re dealing with. But even before I found out about CLL I was thinking that it was time to transition out, I’ve been doing this for fourteen years, somebody else should be doing it now. I’m really concentrating on my lab, that’s my main focus right now.

BEST MOVIE LINE of all time is “I’ll make him an offer he can’t refuse.” I like all the Godfather movies and Goodfellas because they’re kind of seedy and dark and tough — things I like. I’d like to be like some of those people in someway…well, maybe not quite.

IF I HAD TO WRITE my autobiography using less than six words it would be ’His friends called him Heavy Kevy’. It was a nickname I had in high school because I was always pensive. Heavy meaning ’lighten up’! I was always worrying about something, like an exam that was coming up.

WHO KNOWS WHAT’S NEXT. I’m just trying to live every day and I hope to continue working for five more years— that will bring me to age 65. And that’s the length of my research grant. I want to concentrate on that and see it to completion.

Dr. Lisa Mielniczuk

If You Really Love It, You Can Do It All.

Dr. Lisa Mielniczuk

Division of Cardiology

The grand-daughter of polish World War II survivors, Lisa Mielniczuk absorbed at an early age that nothing comes easy in life and to value hard work. She would study to become a Cardiologist with advanced training in Heart Failure and Transplantation, co-found and direct numerous innovative clinical programs and build from scratch a unique clinical and translation research program to evaluate mechanisms and novel treatments of pulmonary hypertension and right HF. With over 65 peer-reviewed publications, a University Research Chair, numerous Provincial and National consultancy positions and invitations to speak at countless international venues, she is considered one of the Departments young female superstars.

I THINK those that are very successful are those that have learned the importance of perseverance and tenacity.

AM I REGIMENTED and organized? Yes, absolutely, very much so. The first thing I think about in the morning is what needs to get done— both personally and professionally. When I get to work every morning, I write what I need to accomplish that day on sticky pads. Even on the weekends I write myself a list. I’m the type of person who will put something on that list that I’ve already done, just to cross it off —because that feels good to me.

PEOPLE HAVE JOKED that I use the word phenomenal a lot, that I’m over enthusiastic about things.

THIS SUMMER I took my kids up to the Yukon with some other family members, rented an RV— it was absolutely phenomenal (1). We went camping in Whitehorse and Alaska and I was completely unplugged for the first time — for about a week! It was stressful at first but felt good after about the second day.

APPRECIATING THE BEAUTY of nature and being outside is a shared family trait.

I DON’T LIKE IT when people say, “That is not my problem”. Complaints are normal, they’re what move us forward as a program, but it’s that discontent matched with ’but I don’t want to take part in building a solution’ that I find frustrating. Those that are unhappy would have the most valuable input because that’s exactly where we’d get the most delta in terms of things that need to change.

THE BEST WAY to get things moving is to move them yourself.

I’D EAT homemade bread and aged cheese all the time if it wasn’t for my health.

EVERYTHING tastes better when you’re camping.

MY GREATEST GUILTY PLEASURE TV show is the Walking Dead. At first, I thought it was the worst show ever and then I got hooked. It’s a phenomenal (2) story about human survival under the most perilous conditions; how do we stay together, how do we keep our humanity in the face of everything that is tearing humanity apart both literally and theoretically — that’s the part of the story I love. By no means would I suggest that I am attracted to the gore, it’s horrible but sadly you can desensitize to it after about the first four or five episodes.

MY FAVOURITE MEAL is turkey dinner, everything from the preparation to the dessert— it is such a wonderful meal to share with family and friends.

MY MOST PRIZED childhood possession was my Playmobile ambulance. My parents bought it for me when I was about six or seven and I loved it. It had a little stretcher, paramedics, a patient with a cast that came on and off; it even had little intravenous bottles and plastic tubing. From that I built a hospital using a little bookshelf in my room. That was probably my earliest interest in healthcare. Although at that age I don’t remember saying I wanted to be a doctor.

I GREW UP in downtown Toronto. My father was an early IT specialist; my mother was a salesclerk at the Bay. I was raised to be a strong and confident person. My parents taught me the importance of resilience and self-reliance. I come from very humble beginnings. My fathers a phenomenal (3) man; he himself had very humble beginnings. His parents are Polish and were displaced in the Second World War by the Germans into a work camp. My father’s upbringings were one of self-reliance, resilience, working hard to get to where you need to be and he instilled that in us. This idea that nothing comes for free, that you must work very hard— these are important traits that I’m trying to teach my children. And then when you are successful, be grateful and give back, make sure you share that with others.

I’M PROUD OF MY BROTHER for always following his passion. When we were growing up, I always had my nose in the books and he would do what needed to get done to get through, but still always had a very good sense of balance. He loves sailing, he co-owns a boat, he’s very physically active and fit and always takes time to take care of himself and to do the things that he likes to do. I probably could learn from him. I tend to switch the needle from work and Cardiologist to Mother. One of my character flaws is that I don’t have a lot of middle ground. My brother is very good at finding that middle ground.

I TOOK A JOB in high school as a receptionist at a health clinic in my neighbourhood. I was so curious, had so many questions, and one of the physicians there taught me things about medicine and about the world of being a physician. There have been people in my life who have been incredibly influential. She was one of them. Her patients adored her — the feedback I used to get at the front desk about this woman was phenomenal (4). She changed their lives and I thought, I want to be like her.

MY MOM taught me to believe in myself.

I ALWAYS WANTED to have children. I played with dolls as a child, babysat as soon as I was old enough; I was a caregiver the whole way. Where I grew up, there was a group home for developmentally handicapped kids right down the street from my house. I started volunteering there when I was ten and would go every day after school and on weekends. These kids —who were essentially my age — were severely physically disabled, non-verbal, wheel chair bound, needed to be fed and needed lots of care. The group home parents there were people who also influenced me greatly.

I WOULD NEVER DO WELL in any environment that was based purely on making a profit.

SPEAKING MULTIPLE LANGUAGES is the talent I’d most like to have that I currently don’t possess. Sadly, I’m unilingual; even after being in Ottawa for 10 years, my kids know more French than me. I’m fascinated with people who can speak multiple languages. It’s on my bucket list to become more of a polyglot but I don’t know if it’s too late for me.

WHAT I REALLY LIKED about heart failure and transplantation was the relationships that you developed with the patients. You are with them at some of the most critical and life-changing points in their life and that’s a real honour in my mind. And the complexity involved in those decision-making processes is very intense and I found it very enjoyable and very rewarding. These patients will be under your care for the rest of their lives. You really have an opportunity to get to know folks very well and be involved in their care at a very deep and intimate level. And I was absolutely drawn to that.

I’VE ALWAYS BEEN INTERESTED in research. Going to the literature to find the answer and then not finding the answer is exciting to me. I spend my day dealing with patients at the bedside on a one-to-one level but I also have this great opportunity to hopefully influence the care at a population, or a system level with research.

I’VE HAD THIS GREAT OPPORTUNITY to participate as part of Provincial and National groups and that’s really where the rubber hits the road — where you’re actually around the table with incredible geniuses and phenomenal leaders trying to figure out how best to serve a group of people at a population level.

WITH RESEARCH, the ratio of investment of time for dividend reward is very skewed. And when you are a clinician researcher, you have to be prepared to accept that a lot of that gets done after hours. If you don’t love it, don’t do it, because research is all encompassing. And you have to be all in to do it well. If not, you won’t be happy.

I SEE THE POSITIVES when the system takes care of the patients in the right way and I unfortunately see the downside, the limitations, whatever they may be; constraints on resources, lack of therapies, lack of transitional care, whatever those constraints are I see them and I see how they influence patients. For me, being able to affect change in a positive way in any of those areas, that’s my biggest driver.

I ALWAYS TELL PEOPLE that I am the luckiest person in the world because I love my job; I love coming to work but I also love being home. I’m happy wherever I am but by far and away, my greatest accomplishment is raising my three children. If nothing else, creating three little people that I hope will make this world a better place — to me that is the number one important or impactful thing that I will ever do in my life.

BEING IN MY POSITION I get an opportunity to respond to people who ask, “Is it possible to have it all?”, especially women coming up through medicine. They feel — especially as they train in Cardiology — that they almost have to choose. Am I going to have a family, am I going to be academic, should I go into private practice and I like that I have the opportunity to say, “If you really love it, you can do it all”. You have to depend on some of these crazy things like ’Nannies On Call’, and have good support around you but you absolutely can. I think academic medicine affords that, perhaps even more than private practice. Because you get the beauty of patient care and if you love research, leadership, administration, teaching, whatever it is — you get to do it all!

Dr. Eugene Leung

You can only learn to do better if you learn from your mistakes.

Dr. Eugene Leung

Head, Division of Nuclear Medicine

Dr. Eugene Leung loves what he does and is enthusiastically committed to the rapidly evolving field of functional imaging and ’Theranostics’ — today’s buzz word to describe targeted imaging and therapy that captures real-time physiologic process from the inside out. His loyalty to this somewhat misunderstood ’black-box’ specialty is evident by his drive to educate the masses on the dynamics of Nuclear Medicine, and in doing so, protect it from being absorbed by other disciplines.

I CHOSE MY SUBSPECIALTY because it exemplifies the “art” and grayscale of medicine.

I KNOW IT SOUNDS CORNY, but Bugles are one of my favourite snacks. They’re salty and I’m a salt monster. I was also trying to make a joke: ’corny’ because Bugles are made of corn. People have told me I have very opaque humour.

THERE’S NO GOOD WAY to compensate for a missing sense. I don’t know which one I’d be able to live without. I’ve actually asked myself that more than a few times. My livelihood is built on seeing things so I’d probably pick hearing… I guess… but at the same time I had a brief fling with being a musician so that’s a hard one to answer. You really do need all your senses to fully appreciate life.

NUCLEAR MEDICINE is a discipline that’s not so well known. And when things are not quite as well understood opinions get developed and perceptions are formed that may or may not be correct. I have to deal with that on an everyday basis.

BEING NAMED HEAD of Nuclear Medicine came earlier than I thought but it gives me the tools to push the division forward.

IN SOME PLACES in the world, in the United States for instance, Nuclear Medicine is being absorbed rapidly into other disciplines. Canada is a lot like Europe — the specialty is still very protected. I want to a) maintain that and b) build upon it. My loyalty to the discipline is what drives me.

MY PRINCIPLE FAULT is procrastination and epic loose ends.

MY GREATEST REGRET is not delivering the yellow rose to my wife before meeting her. It’s a segue into a story of how I met her. I’ve been very quiet and passive my entire life, so a university crush on someone you don’t know is basically just looking at someone across the room. At some point, I decided to get a flower to give to her on Valentine’s Day, but thought it was kind of corny and I never did it — the flower just sat there and wilted in the fridge. Finally, I decided to go and say hi and introduce myself and eventually told her about the flower. She said, “you should have just given it to me back then! ”

THERE’S NO SUCH THING as luck. Luck is something that results from karma. According to Buddhist teaching — by the way I’m a Buddhist — nothing happens by chance.

ONE RULE OF PARENTING: it will be a thankless job. Diem and I don’t have children, that’s a very conscious decision we made. My sister moved into town last year and I was very happy to have my nieces closer so we are no stranger to seeing children being raised. We understand that they will never have an appreciation for their parents until basically they move out. It’s an observation I’ve made and experienced because I don’t think I ever thanked my own parents.

WHEN I WAKE UP in the morning I hit the snooze button.

MY STRESS-REDUCING TRICK is listening to frisson-inducing music (pronounced free-zon). Certain classical pieces that I grew up learning and playing give me goosebumps like The Planets by Gustav Holst. He was a great composer and made a series of works that are named after the planets and Greek astrology. They were the prototypes for a lot of the movie music and things we hear in the theatres. That grand swelling soundtrack music, that’s the kind of stuff I like.

I LIKE RED ANYTHING. My hair is always red and some other colour. I started dying it just shortly after I got married. You hear of shy people doing these things to express themselves… and that may have applied to me. Everything I do in life, whether it’s the expression of how I look or the stuff that I buy, I always try and find that something extra to be special or distinctive.

ONE OF MY PET PEEVES in life are people who just follow along with the crowd because it’s the popular thing to do. I always make a point of going with the alternative if it makes sense for me. That’s why I use a Blackberry. It also doesn’t hurt that they’re Canadian… and have keyboards. I can’t type without a keyboard.

WHAT I DISLIKE most about my appearance is the cowlick in between haircuts.

I TOOK ON QUALITY ROLES for a lot of reasons. In medicine, it’s not just about knowing your stuff and planning best practices but you also need some way to circle back to see if what you’re doing is effective and to have checks and balances to learn from the process and fix it if necessary. That process is what interests me because I’m the type of person who always wants to improve.

BEST MOVIE LINE of all time: “The greatest teacher, failure is” because a) it’s from Star Wars and I love Star Wars, and b) the quote is from YODA, the most awesome Jedi Master ever. I guess it circles back to the whole quality thing. You can only learn to do better if you learn from your mistakes. It’s just another way of saying that in a very Yoda way.

I USED TO PLAY PIANO when i was younger and a lot of that skill is just rote repetition. There’s a lot that you can learn from repetition but what really brings you one step up in ability is as each process repeats, you actually learn from what went wrong in the previous iteration.

THE BEST WAY to get things moving is gravity.

I THINK you do your best when you see the lightbulb ’ah-ha’ moment on a learner’s face. I like to teach and for me teaching has always been a given. As part of an academic institution it’s an expectation that you’re supposed to do it but you need to do it willingly. If you’re just doing it because you’re told, you’re not going to succeed or get your point across. I actually want to make sure that any trainees that come through our program get the full experience they should.

LAST SATURDAY, I was recovering from a full driving racetrack day. Some people like to get their speed fix at a ski hill. I like to take my car to the Calabogie track. It’s a full-on workout unless you’re just putzing around. To learn from every iteration of going around the course, and to do it as smoothly as possible, you have to pay full mental attention. The G-forces that are involved in trying to hold the car where it needs to go are quite a lot and after an entire day you’ve gotten a full workout.

MY FIRST SPORTS CAR was a Mazda RX8. It was a very different car, a misunderstood car that people have very different opinions of…are you seeing a pattern? It’s not powered by a normal engine; it’s built with a Wankel rotary engine. The only moving part is a triangular disc that spins around. I loved that car, it was a very different experience. It’s a light nimble sports car but not very powerful. At the track, all the Porches would blow by me in the straightaways.

WHEN THAT POOR CAR had to go — I say that because I’m very loyal to things that I like —I got the dream car I’ve always wanted. It’s an Acura NSX. Its ethos is that you can drive it to work or go to get groceries but still be capable of the performance of other supercars like Ferraris which can be difficult to maintain. Diem and I are very cognizant of the fact that it was the only one in Ottawa… so we cannot drive like bad citizens.

 

WHEN I REALLY WANT SOMETHING, I obsess and research endlessly. I build water cooled computers for fun. There’s an art to putting a computer together: a lot of customization, planning the cooling loop and seeing how it looks. So, choosing all the right parts and making sure they work well sounds kind of superficial but that takes a lot of time and research.

I’D EAT MELT-IN-YOUR-MOUTH pork belly all the time if it wasn’t for my health. I don’t understand how people stick to bland diets and refuse to try new foods.

MY FAVOURITE activity outside of the hospital is playing video games; the immersive first-person story-driven type. They still involve shooting things but you also spend a lot of time building the characters and getting to know the environment. Mass Effect is one of these big science fiction soap opera epic types that I like. My wife doesn’t play these types of games but she really enjoys sitting there watching the story. Each of the characters that I’ve built and become fond of, she knows them all by name too.

ONE PRESENT I will always be happy to receive is LEGO. I still have all the LEGO that I’ve ever been given — giant bins of it. As a kid, I was always proud of the stuff that I built because of all the time planning and putting it together. I wouldn’t stop the iterations until I was happy with the final product.

I GREW UP in the bedroom community of New Market. My mother was a cartographer; my father was a high school geography teacher. My Dad was actually the only one out of eight generations who was not a doctor. He decided in his own way to do his own thing and I appreciated that about him. If he had also been a physician I’m not sure I would have sought it out as much.

MY PARENTS are very big on tradition and respecting culture, which I don’t have a problem with. But, a big part of that has an element of doing what you’re told and going with the grain. As I’ve matured, I’ve realized that that type of thinking bothers me. While I was raised that way, I would not choose to label myself as a conformist now. It irks me — that type of thinking.

MY MOM TAUGHT ME to recite the multiplication table in Chinese.

MY GREATEST professional achievement is gaining the respect of my peers.

MUSICAL IMPROVISATION is the talent I’d most like to have that I currently don’t possess; I’ve always admired the creativity and spontaneity of expression that was the next step beyond technical competence I could never achieve.

BABY DUCKLINGS always make me laugh.

IF I HAD TO write my autobiography using only 6 words it would be: “Never pet burning animals in fall”. You know how at the end of every school year everyone goes around signing each other’s year books? Well, someone wrote that in mine. It was just the most random, stupid sentence that to this day I still have no idea what it means, but I keep thinking about it. There’s always a thread that connects everything but when there isn’t a thread – like this — then I wonder… okay, was there never meant to be a thread or is it that I just haven’t looked hard enough?

I’M PARTICULARLY PROUD of our M&M rounds. We didn’t have them at one point. So I’m very happy that when these rounds occur that not only do all the staff physicians come but also the trainees and administrative staff, technologists and managers. And they all contribute, they’re all part of the conversation. That part I’m proud of because that’s the kind of division I want – to ensure everyone feels that they have a say. 

I HOPE MY LEGACY will be that I was instrumental in turning Nuclear Medicine back into its own.

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