Faculty Spotlight – Daniel Kalla


Vancouver – St. Paul’s Hospital

Dr. Daniel Kalla is a clinical associate professor at UBC Department of Emergency Medicine, an emergency medicine physician at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver, and an international bestselling author. His medical thrillers include Lost Immunity (2021), The Last High (2020), and We All Fall Down (2019). His latest thriller, The Darkness in the Light, will be released May 3, 2022.

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

I was born and raised in Vancouver, and I did my undergrad and med school at UBC. Basically, I was way ahead of my time and behaving like a millennial in the early 1990s by refusing to leave my parents’ home. 

What inspired you to work in Emergency Medicine?  

Partly, it appealed to my undiagnosed (at the time) ADHD. But as a student, I loved the pace, variety, and immediacy of emergency medicine. I still do.

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

I don’t believe my work has that significant an impact. But I do hope I help the majority of my patients in some way. And if not help, then at least treat them with respect and empathy and, of course, do them no harm. 

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

Keep your options open. Work in several hospitals before you settle on one. Consider non-clinical work. Travel. One of the great bonuses of a career in emergency medicine is that it affords you opportunities that most people with Monday to Friday jobs will never get a chance to pursue.

What excites you most about your work? What are you most proud of?​

I think I’m most proud of my staying power. I’ve worked in emergency medicine for twenty-eight years, and my thirteenth novel is about to published. And I actually still love both careers.

In addition to being an emergency medicine physician—in your spare time—you have written numerous medical thrillers. What led you to start writing? 

Medicine is in my DNA. I’m a third-generation MD, the son of two doctors. But when I was young, what I really wanted to do was to write. My writing career started with an SFU night course called introduction to screenwriting. A few years after I went into practice, I bullied two friends into taking it with me. And what began on a whim, soon evolved into a passion for writing and a very fulfilling side career.

How do you balance the demands of your career as a physician with writing and family?

I am not sure I do always balance them. But I honestly think when it comes to medicine and writing, they’re truly complementary. One fuels the other. 

In what ways has your work as emergency medicine physician influenced your stories and characters?

​In every way. I primarily write medical suspense; the emergency department is often a major—although never the central—setting. But beyond the drama, conflicts, and struggles I witness daily in the emergency department, the people I meet and the life stories I hear inspire my writing. Although, I never base my characters on any specific patient or staff (although a few colleagues have accused me of doing so over the years).

How do you develop your plot, setting, and characters? How long does it take you to write a book?

It’s different for almost every novel. Sometimes I will be inspired by a hot button theme or issue, for example the anti-vaxx movement in Lost Immunity. Other times, like in my upcoming novel, The Darkness in the Light, I was inspired by an idea for a major plot twist. I usually work from a very brief and loose outline. I like to let the story develop organically. And for me, the characters develop from the dialogue they share.

How do you think being a writer has helped you to be a better physician?

In several ways. I think my storytelling has helped to enhance my appreciation for what we do, and also my empathy for the patients we see.

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

Home, usually. Although this winter, I’m all about the skiing, so you might check Whistler, too.

Share this story:

Latest News