What’s Up, Doc?

Dr. Patrick McDonald

BC Children’s Hospital’s new Head of the Division of Pediatric Neurosurgery

BEHIND THE STETHOSCOPE: I am a pediatric neurosurgeon, so I deal with conditions of the brain and spinal cord in children that require surgery. This includes hydrocephalus (a build-up of fluid in the brain), brain tumours, congenital anomalies, spina bifida and trauma. One of the things I love about pediatric neurosurgery is the diversity of conditions we deal with.

I also obtained a master’s degree in bioethics shortly after I started my practice. My main interest in ethics relates to conflicts of interest in research. I recently moved to Vancouver after 14 years working at Winnipeg Children’s Hospital.

TRAINING: I attended medical school at the University of Toronto and also did my neurosurgical residency there. My pediatric neurosurgery training was at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. I obtained a master’s degree in bioethics from the Joint Centre for Bioethics at….you guessed it, the University of Toronto.

Family/Personal Picture: With both kids in university, my wife and I have recently become empty-nesters. We participate in a variety of outdoor activities and after many Manitoba winters, look forward to them not involving parkas and temperatures of -30 Celsius.

What you'd never know about me: I played alto sax in several bands in high school and university and am teaching myself to play bluegrass mandolin.

Why I became a Neurosurgeon: All through medical school I wanted to be an obstetrician. One day I accompanied a classmate to a neurosurgery operation. When the neurosurgeon showed me how to drill a hole in the skull, I was hooked.

Hobbies: Other than music, I spend much of my free time running, cycling, cross-country skiing or reading. My goal is to one day complete an ultra-marathon.

Secret Fantasy: To open a combination jazz café/brew pub/coffee shop.

Philophy: Pretty simple: be kind.

What I'm reading right now: Right now I’m reading a few things: The Places in Between by Rory Stewart, about his walking trip across Afghanistan in 2002; The Sense of Style, a guide to writing by Steven Pinker; and When Breath Becomes Air, the posthumously published memoir of Paul Kalanithi, a young American neurosurgeon diagnosed with terminal cancer during his residency training.

If I didn’t have to work...“I’d travel, write and continue to do and teach pediatric neurosurgery in developing countries.”

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