Tag Archives: medical school

Loss is a void. Love is how you fill it.

When you work in a place where loss is an every day occurrence, it changes something in you. Empathy is always there, yes, but when you’ve seen so much loss so often you begin to get a little numb to it. That’s a harsh reality of the medical profession. And it’s not to say that you’ve become cold or indifferent. Not at all. It’s just that the acceptance of loss can be part of your routine. It loses some of its smack that way and you catch yourself saying those time-honoured clichés… it’ll be ok or it’ll get better with time. But loss has a way of reaching you when you least expect it. An unwanted surprise when the phone rings in the middle of the night.

I guess I keep my cards close to my chest. I don’t usually air what I’m feeling. I internalize a lot. But perhaps writing this blog is cathartic, maybe even selfish, as I hope to find some solace in sharing the experience of loss with others. Maybe they’ve been down this road. Or maybe this is just my way of filling the void. Doctors often find a place to hide their emotions, take a deep breath and deliver bad news. I never quite developed the skill for it. God bless those who have. It’s probably why I chose a specialty that deals largely in fixing things when they can be fixed. There are always better odds on a happy ending.

But life is predictably unpredictable. As soon as we are old enough to understand what it means to live and breath, we realize the antithesis. Yet no matter the duration of this knowledge, the loss of a loved one is overwhelming, like being hit with the harsh truth of life, smacking you in the chest, leaving you breathless.

Last month, my father-in-law, Richard Taylor, passed away suddenly of a massive heart attack. He was 65. He was not only Allison’s dad but also my children’s “pops,” and my friend. The relationship between a father-in-law and his son-in-law is storied to not always be an easy one. Rick made it look easy. He taught me that it was ok to live different lives, to try and accomplish different goals, to wear different hats, as long as you had the equipoise of family first. That piece of wisdom has meant so much to me.

I’m travelling home, trying to reconcile a memorial service, which I just attended for someone who had such a large influence in my family’s life. The service itself was a beautiful and moving tribute to a dynamic, caring husband, father and grandfather.


With a fire truck standing guard outside, and a sea of black uniformed solemn fire fighters inside, surrounded by family and friends, it concluded with a five-bell salute, the fire code that the truck is home safe and sound. There were multiple testimonials about the different facets of Rick’s life as a fire fighter, paramedic, pastor, youth leader, friend, and colleague. It was a heartfelt capture of his life.   There were many sad moments, many breathtaking memories, but perhaps the true reflection of his life, his true memory, was in his grandchildren playing happily while remembering their pops with the innocence that only belongs to children.

But the void is still there. I see it most dramatically hanging over Allison’s head. She smiles for the kids’ sake. She greets friends and visitors. She’s being the rock she’s always been. But look closer. There’s that thousand-mile stare that comes with grief. Loss is hard but seeing how it weighs on the ones you love, that feels even harder. I started writing this by wondering what fills that void. What gives you your breath back. Then it hit me. It’s not about the void. It’s about celebrating the legacy. Rick’s is already overflowing with the love of his family and everyone who remembers him.

I’ve done countless presentations on Broken Earth to audiences of all sizes. But the thought of having to stand up in front of group and say a few words about Rick… that, that was the most intimidating. Below is an excerpt of my remarks from his service that I wanted to share with you…


“Pops” lived his life with the frequently proclaimed mantra: Peace and Love. He did this by committing his life to service. In fact, I think it is accurate to say that he lost himself in service to others in need, and thereby to God and most importantly, to his wife, daughters and family.

 I first met Rick in 1997, before Allison and I were dating. It was immediately obvious that he had an intense and immense love of life. Since those years, I was privileged to learn myself how to open my heart… to learn from him that there are no limits to love.

Rick always led by example. He ran into buildings from which people were running. Flew into accident scenes from which people were fleeing. I often wondered how many people are alive today, how many people can live freely today because of Rick’s courage and service to others.

Rick was a spiritual person. He served God and his community. I was a full-fledged member of the family when Rick was a pastor and I observed his dedication to the community: baptizing, running church camps, officiating at weddings, administering the last rights. Rick was a spiritual leader.

Beyond saving lives and his spiritual ministry… even beyond golf… Rick’s most heartfelt service was to his family. His commitment to his family is something I strive to emulate daily. His love and dedication to his wife was the stuff of art… forty-four years! I’ve watched Rick and Deb interact with such poetic flare, such music, that they always seemed to be on their first date. Rick’s smile was always a tad wider when Deb was in the room. 

In truth, because of his dedication to Allison, I owe my family life to Rick. The day Allison’s medical school application was due, Rick had to race across town to get a transcript and have it post-dated the same day. When the first post office was closed, he raced to another one and begged the clerk to post-mark it for that day even though they were closed. He pleaded that his daughter’s future depended on it. How easy it would have been to quit at the first post office. And how different my life would be! 

His love for his grandchildren was what we read in storybooks. Meeting us in Disney, taking Maggie on stroller rides around Washington, Rachael to soccer, Mark to hockey. The endless trips to movie theatres and local stores for treats. Yes, pops was a storybook grandfather. My children are blessed to have had him in their lives.

As a family we are all stronger for having known him. We are more caring for having loved him, and more courageous for having had him in our lives. I take great solace in knowing that his spirit lives in our hearts and especially in the hopes and dreams of his grandchildren.

When people question the current state of the American Dream, I suggest we point to Pops. When they wrote the famous words: Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, the founding fathers had people like Rick in mind. 

Life: Rick lived life fully. He loved life and he made the lives of those around him better.  

Liberty: from a rough start, Rick rose through the ranks and seized the day… the freedom to raise a family and love them with every fiber of his being. And he always found the freedom for his second great passion: golf.

Pursuit of Happiness: for Rick, there was no “pursuit” of happiness. Happiness was a by-product of his being… with his family and his community… and all those magical moments that gave his life such rich meaning.  

Let us be grateful for the presence among us of one who truly lived the American Dream. Peace and Love, Rick… Peace and Love.


For Allison, for all members of the Taylor family, and everyone else whose life Rick touched. For those out there tonight dealing with a loss in their own life. For us all. Find the peace that comes in knowing that cherished memories are eternal. Find the love in every moment with the ones you love. Hold them in your heart. That’s how you fill the void.

  • Andrew




Posted by on April 7, 2017 in Uncategorized


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Look a little closer: keeping positive in the age of doubt.

It all kinda makes you want to stop looking at the news. The turmoil is undeniable. Recent world events have left some feeling down, disillusioned and even depressed. We appear to be on a path of applying a negative lens, and I fear it is becoming all-consuming. But look a little closer. Are we actually in tough times?

There is no question that 2016 and the beginning of 2017 have had some disheartening and questionable behaviors of not just a few, but many.  There is no doubt that these actions are a gigantic Trump-sized anchor weighing on our collective conscious and subconscious mind.

But there’s the trick, and the psychological fallacy we must overcome.

Just because there have been two or three or even 10 or 20 negative events, we cannot let our lens be anchored here. It is our duty and responsibility to be skeptical and at times fearful, but we cannot lose site of the overwhelming positivity around the world.

Hope and courage outweigh it all on a local, national and global stage every single day. It is easy to be sucked into the often-gigantic shadows of negativity, but we need to resist that move, and instead celebrate more frequently, more loudly, and with more enthusiasm the positive messages of hope.

Yes, 2016 was hard. But we must look at what goes into making the glass half full. In my profession, good news is there if you look for it. According to the UN child mortality rates are down everywhere around the world. The rate of deaths from malaria is down by 60%.  We’ve made great strides to eradicate Ebola. World hunger has reached some of its lowest levels in 25 years. The Paris agreement, albeit in current flux, has made the world take notice, recognize and act on climate change.

In St. John’s, Team Broken Earth launched our first refugee clinic drawing on local resources and talent to help care for new Canadians. Nationally, we grew to include 7 provinces, representing hundreds of Canadians united in making a difference in healthcare, and health education to those living in countries in desperate need. New teams from Quebec, Saskatoon and Barrie, Ontario joined the effort.

But by far the most impressive national team effort was lead by Dr. Barter to respond to Hurricane Matthew, drawing on volunteers from across Canada to unite and care for thousands of patients in the immediate aftermath of the natural disaster.

Internationally, we expanded to ensure there was more education with trauma, orthopedic, anesthesia and critical care courses in Haiti, even with our first volunteer from Australia. We also provided a trauma course in Bangladesh.  A team has even approached us from Massachusetts to carry the Broken Earth flag. We also expanded to begin to send teams to Guatemala and Nicaragua. Yes, look closer and see yourself in every part of these little wins, these reasons to smile.

Do we live in troubling times? Yes. But fear can be a motivator. We need to have the courage to resist the temptation of negativity, resist this anchor to our course, and reset our direction based on the good that is happening in the world.

The bright side so often eludes us. The tough stand on immigration in the States is all over the news but in Canada it was met with a continued commitment to embracing immigrants and refugees as the responsible, ethical, most Canadian thing we can do. Even more recently (and tragic) is the inexplicable murder of 6 people in Quebec, gunned down while they prayed at their Mosque. It’s such a dark and sorrowful moment that has been greeted with an outpouring of love and support across Canada and around the world.

Yes. Look closer and see it.

See where we can shift the dynamic from what is happening to us to how we react to it. Trust me, bridging that gap will make all the difference.



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Posted by on February 2, 2017 in Uncategorized


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The origins of inspiration and how it constantly redefines itself.

I get asked one question a lot: “where do you get your inspiration?”

I find it a little tough to answer. Maybe not so much answer but narrow down. I’ve been blessed to know, work with, learn from and listen to some truly inspiring people and organizations. Sometimes I just don’t have the words. It’s Thanksgiving in the States this week. I’m here with Allison and the kids visiting her parents on the West Coast. There’s a lot of love around. A lot to be thankful for these days. It’s good to pause and inventory our gratitude and inspirations.

In the wake of the devastating hurricane in Haiti, Team Broken Earth was immediately committed to respond and make a difference in the relief effort. But we didn’t know what that effort would look like or what would be involved. We were asked before the storm even landed to begin to assemble a team. I didn’t know what to expect or who we would need. Felt like déjà vu.

Quickly the local team in Haiti, working 24-hr days, made an assessment of what the needs would be. We made some quick decisions. Figured out what skills were needed to go but had no idea if we could meet the last minute emergency demands. This was so stressful. In this hour of need, none of us wanted to let the people of Haiti down.

Turns out, in true Broken Earth fashion, all we had to do was ask. With one email to our national family, we had what we needed to set out and answer the call for help. Flying into the middle of a natural disaster was not going to be easy. But our members rose to the occasion and stood out as a force that was able to partner with others and see over 4000 patients.

These are the true heroes. The very best inspiration. Our volunteers from coast to coast, a true Canadian effort, were welcomed in the town of Jeremie, a devastated community on the South West coast of Haiti in the path of the eye of the hurricane. They were celebrated as being front and center in the relief effort. Our volunteers took a leap of faith, answering a call for help, walking into the unknown with one purpose: to help.

Heroes walk among us everyday. This is where I get my inspiration.

People like Jim Maher, who step up and leave work and his family on a moments notice, risking his own health and safety to help the people of Haiti. Why does he do it? It’s not because it is a part of his job, not because he is getting paid overtime, not for fame or accolades, but because he can. And he’s not alone.

Inspiration is all around us.

Amid all that’s going on, from the election in Haiti to continuing to organize our expansion team, I received a message from a parent at my children’s school. She asked it if it was ok if her daughter for her ninth birthday party could announce to her friends that, in lieu of gifts, could they please bring articles of clothing for Haiti. A random child turning nine. And she’s offering not just to help but to sacrifice her own birthday gifts to help those in need. Think to when you were nine. I know I would not have been so altruistic. This is beyond inspirational, this is a legacy that we may be creating. Helping to instil in our future generations the sense of social responsibility and appreciation that we are part of a global family. The hope of a little girl to change the world, that’s inspiration.

But that’s the funny thing about inspiration. It’s constantly changing. It continually redefines itself and what it means to you. I’m always curious what it’ll be next. Where I’ll see it. What it’ll mean. Just recently our team has expanded within the province of Newfoundland with our first team from the West Coast now on the ground in Haiti. I once thought that having teams from across the country would be our ultimate goal.

But inspiration knows no borders.

I was offered to come and speak at the University of Massachusetts. The common goal of global healthcare and medical care for those who need it most, knows no boundaries. It was exciting to be speaking with specialists, surgeons, anesthesia, gynecologists, and medical students about how we can collaborate, how we can work together to make a sustainable difference. A humbling, inspiring event using the podium of U Mass to launch a Broken Earth chapter south of the border. To think of how far we have come. To have people from other countries, from celebrated institutions interested in what we are doing and how they can be involved, that is inspiring.

Lastly, inspiration often comes from unsung heroes. People like our sponsors. They are always there for us, always offering, always asking how to help.

Keith Bradbury, when approached for help, immediately assumed the cost of rooms for our recent trip to Nicaragua. Although we do our best to thank them, it is hard to give them the thanks they deserve. Whether it is M5 , Columbus, Rogers, Air Canada, Stryker, Zimmer, Depuy, the Lions Club or many, many more. From restaurants (Blue, Raymond’s, Mallard Cottage, Tavola, Get Stuffed, and many more) to entertainment (Alan Doyle, Great Big Sea, The Once, The Fortunate Ones, Cory Tetford and many more) we have been lucky. The people in the background often get overlooked, those who move the machine at home so we can function on the ground away (Nakita, Susan, Meghan, Mary, Allison and many more). Where do we find our inspiration? From the companies and individuals that make a difference and many more.

I set out to answer the simple question of inspiration and motivation. Turns out it is easier than I thought: inspiration is everywhere.




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Posted by on November 25, 2016 in Uncategorized


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Operating Outside the OR

Yesterday was another busy day for me here in Port-au-Prince but not in the OR for a change. Started early at 7 AM with lectures to the public medical school orthopedic residents. These students are eager to learn and their enthusiasm fed my energy.

Broken Earth is creating a new partnership here with the Haitian State University and the General Hospital.  The team will be regular teaching via the telemedicine system to local students and medical professionals. This is so exciting and is truly part of Broken Earth’s long-term goals in Haiti. What’s that saying about teaching someone to fish?!? This sustainable education lecture circuit will be a huge benefit.  The residents were engaged and appreciative of Dr. Squire and Stratton’s lectures.  

Back at the hospital, physiotherapist Dan Martyn was up early helping our latest femur fracture to walk and as a result was discharged today. Another little win.

Had a full schedule of meetings in the afternoon. First off with the Minister of Health and the Director of Health to ensure we are meeting their requests and needs. Then it was off to a meeting with the contractor for the new building.  I know this is important stuff, exciting too, but to tell you the truth I’d much rather be in the OR. You’re literally hands-on with a dedicated team and making a difference.

It’s tactile. It’s immediate.

You see the results, good or bad, right away.

Gotta be more patient and understand the bigger picture.

Back home, all the little trick-r-treaters and getting ready to head out. Missin’ that for sure. Well, on to the next meeting… Happy Halloween all!




Posted by on October 31, 2013 in Uncategorized


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