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National Physicians’ Day 2020 – Dr. Shavaun MacDonald

To pay tribute to the many dedicated physicians practicing at Island Health and in honour of National Physicians’ Day, we are profiling some of the doctors leading innovations and delivering high quality service to show the human behind the profession.

Dr. Shavaun MacDonald is a critical care and emergency physician in Victoria. She is also the residency program director for the UBC Basic Clinical Year Residency Program and the clerkship director for the Island Medical Program third year clerkship. Originally, from Windsor Ontario, Dr. MacDonald has migrated west since completing medical school.

  • Why did you chose medicine and your speciality/field?

I missed my emergency medicine rotation during medical school due to the SARS pandemic, so it wasn’t really on my radar when I was picking which residency I was going to applying for. Fortunately an elective experience in my fourth year of medical school showed me how great working in the ER can be, and led to me to apply for an ER residency position. ER is great because I like trying to figure out what’s going on, like a solving a puzzle.  I also like the variety - seeing people of all ages with a broad range of concerns.

I developed an interest in critical care medicine as a resident. I like the diagnostic and resuscitation aspects that are shared with emergency medicine.  I also like that I get spend more time with the patients and families and that I can delve more deeply into complex medical issues.

  • What is most meaningful to you about your work in medicine?

Working in critical care and emergency medicine, I’m aware that I often meet patients and families under circumstances that are stressful and challenging for them. We are privileged to have the opportunity to provide care in the situations. Having a positive impact on their experience is very meaningful to me. As a teacher, I hope to extend this positive impact to more patients and families by influencing the clinical practice of those that I teach.

  • What are your professional interests and notable achievements?

Medical education and medical ethics are my main areas of interest outside of my clinical work. My interest in medical ethics developed when I was doing my ICU fellowship and I saw a lot of transplant medicine. I wanted to understand more about the impact of medical ethics on how clinical decisions were made. My formal training in medical ethics helped me understand the impact of ethical conflict on both patients and clinicians. I have an ongoing interest how to make ethics support more available and accessible for those providing clinical care.

I am fortunate to have leadership roles in both undergraduate and post-graduate medical education in Victoria. I always learn from the trainees I work with, and really appreciate the opportunity to be part of their medical training. I recently received the Canadian Association for Medical Education Certificate of Merit for my contributions to medical education at the University of British Columbia.

  • Who or what do you turn to for inspiration?

I am inspired by seeing what the people around me do. My co-workers are amazing people – recognizing this and appreciating all that they do keeps me going.

  • Where do you go, or what do you do, to recharge your batteries?

I like to be active. I’ve always been a runner but lately I’ve had some injuries that are forcing me to transition to cycling. No matter what I’m doing, being outside always helps me refocus and move forward.

  • What is the last book or podcast you enjoyed?

I just finished listening to Bad Batch, a podcast series about illegal stem cell treatments. I had no idea how many for-profit clinics there are in the United States that inject stem cells illegally for questionable benefit. For me, the podcast highlighted how the contrast between the need for deliberate scientific process and the needs of those who can’t afford to wait for a therapy to be vetted through that process creates a space for marginal and potentially harmful practices.

  • What core value have you most relied on during the COVID-19 pandemic?

I would say trust. It’s hard not to get caught up in things that you hear and read, especially when so much is unknown.  By trusting experts to make decisions about what they know best – like what PPE we should we wear or what should I (as a member of the public) do to keep myself and others safe, I can focus on making sure that I am an expert on what know best – providing care in the ER and ICU.

  • What is a change you’ve seen to the health system over the last few months that you are eager to see sustained?

I think the way we are sharing information and ideas is really special. It’s allowed a lot of good things to happen quickly. I hope we can continue to do this, and not fall back on our previous patterns, where we tend to work within our department or division. Although I hate the phrase “don’t reinvent the wheel”, I think we tend to do that a lot in medicine. However, due to the pandemic, we are doing a better job of sharing our processes and adapting them to different areas rather than starting from scratch.

  • How are you keeping in touch with friends and family?

Like most people, I’ve been using FaceTime and Zoom to see my friends and family. I had to cancel a planned trip to Windsor to see my family. My niece wasn’t very impressed and is now asking if I’ll ever come back. We’ve been coming up with fun things to do on FaceTime until I can visit again.

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