Department Spotlight – Heather Flemming


Vancouver –  Vancouver General Hospital

Can you share a little bit about your educational background and how you got to where you are today?

I’m from Halifax, Nova Scotia. I completed an undergraduate degree in biology at UNB where I spent a lot of time dissecting dogfish sharks, a skill I can’t say I use anymore, but really enjoyed. I completed my medical school and emergency medicine residency at Dalhousie, in Halifax. In my residency, I did three months of electives in Vancouver. I completely fell in love with the city during that time and the group at VGH was so welcoming. I feel so fortunate I get to be here!

What inspired you to work in emergency medicine?

I knew I wanted to do emergency medicine from my first elective in med-two. I really enjoyed the diversity of each shift. Emergency practice requires a high level of knowledge, but also a high level of interpersonal skill. The environment can be extremely challenging, but in the face of that challenge, you get to experience some remarkable moments of humanity. It is always pushing me to be better.

What impact would you like to see your work have on patients, communities and society at large?

We are in the midst of dual public health emergencies and the Emergency Department (ED) faces the impacts of the opioid crisis every day. I’m continuously inspired by the emergency physicians and allied healthcare professionals who champion high-quality addictions care. ED-initiated suboxone (buprenorphine/naloxone) is a major interest of mine, and I’d like to see us continue to break down barriers to initiate treatment for opioid use disorder in the ED.  Through innovation and destigmatization, we can reduce harms and help prevent opioid overdose death.

What are you most proud of?

I’m proud of being part of the incredible team at VGH and of being able to serve my community during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our team has sacrificed, and worked hard to positively impact the lives of patients and their families. It has definitely been challenging, and I think it does leave you changed. Notably, for me I’ve not seen my family since months before the pandemic hit. My work family has been a tremendous source of support for me, and I’m so proud of the cohesion, strength, and dedication they’ve all shown.  

What is one piece of advice that you would give to current trainees?

Take care of your mental and physical health.

When you’re not working, where can we find you?

These days you’ll always find me at home. My hobbies include baking, stained glass and telling my dog he is a good boy.

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