From start to finish, what does a typical work day look like for you?
Generally speaking I try to intertwine my administrative meeting schedule with my shift work. Some days that means I start at 7am and might not leave the hospital until after midnight.
Are you originally from Edmonton? Why do you choose to call Edmonton home?
I am a fourth generation Albertan. I grew up in Waterton Lakes National Park and Medicine Hat. I have been in Edmonton for 20 years, so I guess at some point I just started saying I am from Edmonton.
Describe your career path.
I attended Medicine Hat College and the University of Calgary. I was accepted into medical school at the University of Alberta in 1996. My residency in family medicine and fellowship in Emergency Medicine also were at the University of Alberta.
Why did you initially choose to be an ER doctor?
The specialty of Emergency Medicine was a specialty in its infancy when I went through medical school. The acuity of the medicine was exciting, but having a full career working in the Emergency Room was not really very common before the 1990’s.
You have compared the stress of Emergency medicine to being the equivalent of, “smoking a pack of cigarettes a day.” Does the intensity of the job take a toll on you?
The moving target of your circadian rhythms is what takes its toll. Recovering from a night shift is not as easy when you are over 40. Most of the stresses on the job in the ER in Canada involve a woefully underfunded public system not living up to patient’s expectations.
In 2012, you were named the youngest Chief of Medical staff in the Edmonton Area. Do you find that title adds pressure? How did you end up in that position?
I was Chief of the Emergency Department at WestView before I was Chief of Medical Staff, so I had a little time to cut my teeth. These hospital administration positions are largely volunteer work for physicians, and I have had my speedbumps. I feel all physicians need to contribute in non-clinical ways.
Additionally, you sit on the board of governors of the Westview Primary Care Network and are a clinical professor at U of A’s department of emergency medicine. Can you tell us a bit about each of the projects and why you choose to be so involved in your field?
WestView Emergency Department is considered a practice entity in the eyes of the WestView Primary Care Network. As such, I have served for 9 years as a permanent member of the Board of Governors. The Emergency doctors collaborate with the Primary Care Network on 24 hour 7 day a week care, preventing unnecessary visits to the Emergency Room, and filling in the gaps in transitions of care.My university posting came as a need to place medical students for their mandatory rotation in the Emergency Room. I paired with some colleagues at the University of Alberta Hospital so the medical students could have the blended experience of a trauma center with community medicine. Now the WestView Emergency doctors assist the U of A satellite program in Spruce Grove in training the Family Medicine residents.
How do you see the medical industry changing? What challenges are you currently facing?
Canadians view their healthcare as free. It is absolutely not free – it is funded by the taxpayer. Convenience medicine has now become the hallmark of the Emergency Department. In a publically funded system many people don't take ownership of their own health. There is rampant misuse of the hospital system, and the pendulum has swung so far in the direction of patient privilege that physicians can’t say no to requests anymore.As a challenge, I would like to have the patients see their overall bill while attending a Canadian hospital. As a steward of the hospital system, I consider it part of my job to open patient’s eyes to the costs.
With so much going on, do you manage to sleep?! How do you manage your time?
Sleep is very illusive. I do have a “crash pad” across the street from my hospital that has a bed, a desk and some old dishes from college. It helps when I have a broken shift / meeting schedule. I tell my learners that you must be organized to avoid the time gremlins. I also have the help of some amazing administrative assistants that I can trust (even though I am a micromanager).Avoiding 15 question surveys is also helpful in managing my time.
At one point you had a schedule of working 20 days in a row and then would take 3 weeks off in order to travel. How important is travel to you and having that work-life balance?
Travel is very important and keeps me grounded. In my opinion the primary draw to Emergency Medicine is flexibility with lifestyle. The 80 hour weeks are balanced by long spaces of time off. In this day and age my academic and administrative work can be done by email from halfway around the world.
What do you love most about your job? What do you find most challenging?
The more I practise, the more I like geriatrics. Although a bit slower pace, older people appreciate and respect patience and knowledge. The most challenging aspect of my job is patients fueled by testosterone and alcohol and drugs placing a burden on the public system.
What are your hobbies?
I grew up in the mountains. My family is a hiking family. My 72 year old parents took me on an 18 kilometre hike over varied terrain last weekend. I spend a fair amount of time on the ski hill in winter and am a novice kiteboarder in summer.
How would people describe you in one sentence?
My closest friends and family might say “The guy with all the random factoids”.
What is your dress code as a doctor? How does it vary from weekdays to weekends?
On an Emergency shift I have to move fast and am on my feet without breaks for about 10 hours. Scrubs and runners are the best choice. When I attend administrative meetings, I tend to wear a collared shirt, jeans, stylish belt & shoes which I think are a man’s most important accessories.“Weekends” in the world of an Emergency Doctor actually have no concrete meaning.
What does your style say about you?
Depends on the eye of the beholder. I think I am pretty put together when I want to be, but a lot of the time you will find me in flip flops, T-shirt and jeans which probably makes me look like I just grabbed them out of the hamper. I hate shopping. When I do, I tend to go for quality not quantity and target a few select shops. I would rather pay more for something with no planned obsolescence.
What do you love most about your Poppy Barley?
When I go to purchase shoes, I usually start by saying I am size 13. It saves me the regular disappointment of “sorry sir, we don’t have that shoe in a size 13 in stock”. Poppy Barley offers unique, quality, custom fit for big clumsy feet.
What is something most people don’t know about you?
I am a proud nerd.
If you could trade shoes with anyone for a day, who would it be?
My wife. I would probably lose it on myself. I wonder what it's like to put up with me for a day.
One superpower, what would it be?
The ability to speak any language and understand the cultural nuances of languages would be my superpower of choice. A second choice would be sleep on command.