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Doc Talk: Dr. Harley Eisman

By Fondation du Children,

We sat down with Dr. Harley Eisman, Director of The Children’s Emergency Department. Between running one of the busiest ERs in North America and planning the move to our new facilities on the Glen site, this dedicated Doc has his work cut out for him!

Q: Did you always know you wanted to be a doctor?

A: I definitely always knew I wanted to work in the sciences, but I wasn’t sure if it would be medicine, or engineering, or something else altogether. Then when I was a teenager, I worked at a sleep away camp and it was a real eye opener for me.  It made me realize how much I enjoy working with people, especially kids. From that point on I knew it would be medicine.

Q: Why pediatrics?

A: For me, it always had to be about kids. I narrowed it down to Pediatrics, ENT or Obstetrics and Gynecology, then I did a mentorship at The Children’s as a medical student and that cemented it –I decided on pediatrics, and on The Children’s.

Q: What do you think are the most important qualities for an ER doctor to have?

A: Being a good listener is critical; leadership skills and the ability to lead by example, the confidence to be able to make hard decisions with whatever information you have.

Q: If you weren’t a doctor, what would you be doing?

A: My grandfather was an electrical engineer trained in Europe, so it always appealed to me to follow in his footsteps. I had big plans to start an electronics company called Eisman Electronics Inc. It’s probably best that didn’t happen though – I’m sure we’d have been put out of business by Apple by now!

Q: Have things changed in emergency medicine since you first started, 20 years ago?

A: It has and it hasn’t. The important stuff – the spirit of the team, the caregivers’ commitment to patients and their families – is exactly the same. I still walk in the doors every day and feel that The Children’s is an awesome place to be. What we do medically though has changed dramatically. Advances in medicine and technology have meant that we see fewer basic cases – croup, etc., and more complex cases. And of course the ER has been renovated since then, so it looks different, too!

Q: What’s the first thing you do when you arrive in the morning?

A: Every single day at 8 a.m. the Director of Inpatient Nursing Operations and I have a “bed huddle.” This is something we instituted a couple of years ago and it’s been amazing. Essentially, we make sure that every child who needs a bed that day gets one.

Q: What’s the best part of your job?

A: Even though I’m an administrator now, I love working in the ER doing shifts and being there to take care of kids. I feel so lucky to be in a position to make a positive difference for families – which we are almost always able to do.

Q: What’s the most challenging situation you’ve been in?

A: Although I’ve seen plenty of difficult, complex cases over the years, I have to say the greatest challenge of my career, and one of the most exciting, has been planning the move to our new facilities. Leading and planning change on that scale has been a huge undertaking; it’s become something that runs through the background of my brain almost all the time.

Q: What are you most excited about when The Children’s moves to the Glen in 2015?

A: So many things! First of all, the square footage will be double what we have now. And the patient experience will be vastly different; the ER will have private rooms, the waiting room will be more comfortable, and there’ll be a sheltered drive-up, so no one has to battle the cold. The layout will be different too; it will be planned better so that caregivers have everything they need right at their sides, which results in a better experience for patients.

Q: Do you have any hobbies to help you deal with the stress of the job?

A: Am I allowed to say that administration is my hobby? Just kidding. I’m actually a bit of a do-it-yourselfer at home; I love to take on little renovation projects, especially in the kids’ rooms.

Q: What’s the best lesson you’ve learned from your kids?

A: You’re going to laugh, but my kids have actually taught me to be a better physician. I always say it: you only learn true pediatrics when you become a parent. I have three amazing kids, and nothing I have ever read in a book compares to what I’ve learned from them. I have to mention my wife, too – she’s the best teacher I know. When I used to get questions from new moms about feeding and things like that, I would invariably call my wife. She’s the best.

© 2017 The Montreal
Children’s Hospital Foundation

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