In September 2018, Dr. Vince Chien joined Sinai Health as Bridgepoint’s Director for Medical Education and Site Lead for General Internal Medicine. He’s also Sinai Health’s Medical Lead for the Ontario Telemedicine Network. In the latest edition of People of Sinai Health, Vince shares about how his accident-prone childhood sparked his interest in medicine, the people who inspire him in his everyday work and his passion for nature photography.

Did you always want to become a doctor?

My fascination with medicine started when I was quite young. When I was a kid, I had multiple opportunities to “experience the health care system.” My poor parents had to contend with the fact that I was quite accident prone. For example, when I was four, I wanted to be just like Superman.  I cut out a paper “S” and taped it onto my pyjamas and used a blanket as a cape.  When my parents weren’t looking, I climbed up the side of the stairs and jumped off.  Unfortunately, I could not fly—and sustained a pretty serious tib-fib (lower leg) fracture.  Fortunately, I had an awesome physician looking after me. I still remember him pointing out the fractures on the X-Ray and allowing me to “help” him remove my cast with the electric cast saw. It’s cheesy, but these experiences had a profound effect on me. It seemed to me that doctors had the coolest life.

Can you tell us a little bit about the path that led you to internal medicine?

Mount Sinai played a huge role in shaping my passion for internal medicine. When I was in med school, it was my home base for my clerkship rotations.  I was so fortunate to be taught by luminaries such as Hillar Vellend and Barnet Berris. Both of them were such amazing clinicians, teachers and role models.  They were my heroes. By the end of the rotation, I was completely entranced by life as an internist.  Every day, I thank my lucky stars that somehow I made it into this specialty.

You’ve recently taken on a full-time role at Bridgepoint. Tell us a little bit about your experience here.

I was at St. Mikes for more than 20 years but I am so excited to “come home” to Sinai Health because Mount Sinai was where it all started for me on the internal medicine front. When the opportunity came up to join Sinai Health System as an internist and palliative care physician and work with the Bridgepoint team to enhance its academic infrastructure, I just could not resist. I have a real soft spot in my heart for Bridgepoint.  Riverdale Hospital (now Bridgepoint) was one of the organizations where I started my career.  I remember the joy when the Ontario government reversed their decision to close the hospital, the exhilaration when U of T accepted Bridgepoint as an official affiliate teaching site and the jubilation when Bridgepoint secured approval for the new hospital building.

Throughout my training, I learned about how to “add years to a patient’s life”. The employees and patients at Bridgepoint taught me the important lesson of how to add “life back to those years.” I would love for Bridgepoint to share this unique expertise with the rest of the world and I will be the biggest cheerleader to make this happen!

Do you have any mentors or people you look up to who have influenced your career and helped you along the way?

In my life, I have been fortunate to have a lot of amazing role models to learn from. Every day at Sinai Health, in particular, I have been and continue to be inspired by so many people. On the palliative care unit, I see compassion through simple acts of kindness. I’m inspired by the energy, ingenuity and spirit of everyone on the team. You know you are in a special place when you see how team members go above and beyond to help each other out in order to ensure the comfort and well-being of our patients. There are so many people who have inspired and shaped my career. I know there isn’t room to recognize everyone, but off the top of my head, I’m reminded of Sinai Health employees including Susanne Loay, Fred Parmanand, Brenda Stein, Natalie Rennie and Mel Turner-Joseph; physicians like Peter Kopplin and Jim Kitchens; and leaders like Gary Newton and Jane Merkley.
I’m also inspired by the courage in the face of overwhelming odds demonstrated by patients and their families every day. Honestly, how can one not be moved by all of this? I really have the best job in the world.

Photo of a bird of prey on a background of blue sky. The bird is in flight with a fish in its talons

Vince is an avid nature photographer and captured this stunning shot of a bird of prey with a fish

What do you do outside of work? Do you have any particular hobbies, or sports that you participate in?

My world outside of medicine revolves around my family and a whole slew of hobbies that involve either tinkering around with tech or doing something that “stimulates the creative juices” (or both). For example, I’m a pretty hardcore nature photographer who would not be afraid to risk life-and-limb for “the shot.”  Photographing bears, in particular, is a fun challenge – Imagine me completely decked out in a camouflage ghillie suit (I look totally ridiculous) carrying a huge paparazzi lens. My kids would use a drone to spot the bears and radio the position to me and I would hike to an intercept position and try and get the best shot (and, at the same time, trying to avoid becoming a lunchtime snack). I can tell you, it’s a real rush!
(I am so lucky my wife tolerates this craziness.)

Do you have a motto or personal mission statement?

Photo of a black bear on a background of green foliage in a field of wild blueberries

Bears are one of Vince’s favourite subjects. With a telephoto lens he can capture shots like this while keeping a safe distance!

OK, try not to laugh, but I try to live my live around four Hs

  • Humility – a way to keep myself grounded and open to considering and adopting new ideas
  • Humanity – necessary to foster a culture of caring
  • Heart – passion so that we can excel in the work we do
  • Hard work – the difference between dreaming and making things happen

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