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Letter: Burnaby Hospital Emergency Physician gives back to the Community that helped shape his career
February 02, 2021
My name is Dr. Neil Long, Emergency Department Physician at Burnaby Hospital. I want to share a little bit about myself and why it has been important to me to support Burnaby Hospital Foundation.
Firstly, a little background on myself – while I wouldn’t say my story is rag to riches it was more grit and determination (some would say stubbornness). I was born and raised in The UK with very supportive parents, but we had little money. I was told I’d never go to university, let alone get into medicine. Fast forward some time, I defied the odds and had my medical school interview scheduled. Fortunately, the interview went well, although brief. I had dragged myself halfway up the country with the flu, landed in the interview chair with three doctors staring at me saying “he looks like crap”. To my surprise, my letter of acceptance came just one week later. To this day, I do not know why they accepted me. I’d like to think they saw my determination, but it might have been a wish not to get sick.
I qualified in the UK to work two years in the National Health Service (NHS) and was told I needed to choose a specialty. My passion was emergency medicine, but was told by the career placement software that it wasn’t a match, choose something else. Me being the stubborn, but determined person I am, I choose emergency medicine again, but this time I went to New Zealand. I was told this was career suicide by my consultants and that I’d never make it. Since then I have worked in rural New Zealand, Christchurch through the earthquakes, poison centres for snakebites in Perth, Australia, major trauma centres in Melbourne and have run numerous education projects around the globe. Not bad for the feverish, coughing snotty 16 year old at the beginning of the story.
At the end of my training, my family wanted to head back to the Northern hemisphere and be closer to the mountains. Vancouver was the obvious choice but more hurdles presented themselves. None of the academic sites wanted a foreign-trained doctor (despite being boarded in emergency medicine in three different countries), which meant I had to retake all the medical exams from the bottom up to qualify in Canada. Fortunately, Dr. Paul Johar and the Burnaby community sent out an olive branch and supported me and my family into Canada.
Together we have worked on numerous projects including ultrasound upgrades, state-of-the-art airway equipment, new simulation equipment and multiple simulations to train staff to perform at their peak. Not to mention equipping the Emergency Department with the most up to date COVID-19 protocols and safety equipment to keep patients, staff and visitors safe.
Ultimately, none of my journey to Canada would have been possible without the community support. Our community allows us to aim higher and strive to be the best site not only in Fraser Health but also British Columbia and nation wide. Without our community fighting with us, I believe Burnaby would have been forgotten.
So, I want to stand strong beside our community and donate as a team, to strive to be the best hospital in the world. I could not honestly ask for any more support without making my own donation. As a thank you to Burnaby Hospital and our community, for seeing what those doctors interviewing me saw 22 years ago, I want to donate $5,000 to share my love of Burnaby.
I’ll end with a quote most recently affiliated with Nelson Mandela: “everything is impossible until someone does it”.