For Dr. Carolyn Snider, the emergency department (ED) is a place of deeply humane moments. Whether they come by ambulance or helicopter or are brought in by frantic loved ones, patients need more than just medical care. In the midst of the most terrible, unexpected time, “a person remembers the experience they had with nurses and doctors,” says Dr. Snider. “We have the opportunity to reassure them in that moment and it’s our privilege and responsibility to do so.”
St. Michael’s new chief of emergency medicine became an emerg doctor because she wanted to help people on their worst days and set them up for lasting recovery. After seven years at Winnipeg’s Health Sciences Centre, Dr. Snider is returning home to the hospital that ignited her passion for emergency medicine. “I was here not that long ago getting my badge and arranging for my scrubs and I saw so many familiar, friendly faces as I walked the halls,” says Dr. Snider. “It was amazing.”
Dr. Snider was an ER physician and trauma team leader for three years at St. Mike’s and it was then that her interest in youth affected by violence became a research focus. The Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute supported Dr. Snider’s work within marginalized communities. “I cut my teeth on this research at St. Mike’s,” says Dr. Snider.
Dr. Snider developed the Emergency Department Violence Intervention Program (EDVIP) during her time in Winnipeg. The program paired a support worker with a young person admitted with trauma injuries. Together they worked on goals related to justice, education, employment and housing – whichever the patient decided was important.
Since the launch of EDVIP at Health Sciences Centre Winnipeg, return visits to the ED by young victims of violence saw a 43 per cent decrease while school enrollment and graduation rates increased. Dr. Snider provided a report to the World Health Organization outlining how emergency medicine providers can identify and respond to violence.
Now, Dr. Snider has brought her work to St. Mike’s – a big, urban hospital with a world-class research centre that still has a small community feel to it. For her, it’s the best of both worlds. And she has an ambitious agenda. “I want in 10 years for people around the world to think of St. Michael’s emergency department as the gold standard for both research and clinical care for patients in marginalized communities,” she says. Her plan is to partner with St. Mike’s Centre for Urban Health Solutions (C-UHS) – the world’s only research centre that takes an evidence-based approach to diminish – and in some cases reverse – the detrimental effects of poverty on people’s health.
“I think collaborating with C-UHS can help our ED become a research powerhouse in emergency medicine,” says Dr. Snider.
Providing a healthy and supportive environment for her team is also a priority for the chief. The daily onslaught of an emergency department exacts a heavy toll on staff. Emotions are heightened because of fear and because traumas are sudden. Dr. Snider is encouraged by the existing St. Michael’s wellness group in the ED. Wellness, she says, is more than just a new age fad. It’s a way to respect the intensity of the situation for everyone involved. “In Winnipeg we’d take a moment of pause when a patient was declared deceased. It gave us a moment to honour the victim and to acknowledge the humanity in our jobs,” says Dr. Snider.
On January 1, St. Michael’s Hospital welcomed back a passionate advocate for excellence in emergency medicine. “Toronto is home for me and my family and I’m incredibly excited to be part of such an engaged group of physicians and nurses. St. Michael’s is a big academic institution but every time I come here it feels small, like a family.”