Dr. Hussein Kanji is the Medical Director of the High Acuity Unit at VGH, the largest, most specialized hospital in BC and the number one adult health care referral centre. His vital work has been saving thousands of patients every year, including Nick Kanaan.

Let’s meet him.

Where did you grow up?
Calgary, Alberta.

How long have you worked at VGH?
I completed my fellowship here in 2013 and then started working as an attending physician in 2015.

Why are you so passionate about ECMO?
How can you not be excited about a life-saving therapy we can institute at the bedside when all else fails? All joking aside, it’s an evolving technology that allows us to use every tool we have in our arsenal to give someone the best shot when there are often no more options. In order for this to work it takes the concerted effort of a team from start to finish, and I am proud to say that the team including the nurses, respiratory therapists, perfusionists, physiotherapists, pharmacists and dieticians at VGH are the best I have ever worked with. It’s the reason we are able to continue to grow and excel in this program.

What do you like most about your job?
Making a real difference. I know that the work we are collectively doing is important and significant. If someone is in ICU, it is undeniably the worst day for them and their loved one’s life. It is such a privilege to be part of this time, where so little can mean so much. Time has become a currency, and at the end of the day, it is the most meaningful thing you can give someone.

What first interested you in this area of health care?
When I first started learning about the human body in biology, the more I learned the more I realized the less I knew, and this fascinated and excited me, and pushed me to keep learning. To this day I am in awe of the human body, how it works, and I am forever learning.

Tell us one thing (professionally or personally) that we might be surprised to find out about you?
The Great Hussini was my stage name as a magician. I could be seen busking on the streets, conjuring magic, fire and flotation on the big stage. I’ve parked my wand and top hat as of late and the only disappearing I focus on now is my patients’ ailments.

How do you spend your down time?
With my kids either on a bike, on the seawall or on the ski hill. Otherwise, curled up on my favorite chair reading about philosophy or meditation.

What are three things you always have in your fridge?
Humus, sparkling water and some of my mom’s delicious curry.

Who or what inspires you?
I have been lucky to have had so many mentors who have been so brilliant and passionate, but what has stood out for me most is their selflessness. The “greats” in my life are those who have put themselves second to their patients and colleagues. Who cared not to be recognized but who truly were about making their patients better and their units stronger. Through these individuals I have learned that success in the ICU is a function of a strong, cohesive and selfless team I like to call my ICU family.

What do you hope to accomplish in the next 5 years?
To focus on being the best human I can be. To me that means first being the best dad I can be, to serve my patients in the best way I can, and to continue to help develop programs that make real change. I love to watch the discipline of critical care push boundaries and hope to support its continued growth at all levels.

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