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The indefatigable ER doctor

Natalie Cousineau, BSc 96
July 4, 2022
By Damon van der Linde, BA 08

Natalie Cousineau’s accolades are many. They include being named the first female chief of emergency medicine at the Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre and adjunct lecturer at the University of Toronto’s Temerty Faculty of Medicine.

Still, Cousineau says she feels most fulfilled when she’s treating patients in the emergency room.

“Emergency medicine is where I belong,” says Cousineau. “I love most of the interactions with patients, I love the excitement and I love the uncertainty.”

Having worked on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, Cousineau declares that the greatest demands have come not from the disease, but from the unprecedented stress test on a health-care system that has needed fixing for decades.

“We've never had to deal with staffing shortages quite like this,” she says.

A message to the public

“People can't access the care they need and they are frustrated. My hope is that patients will remember that the medical professionals they see are not at fault for the situation we find ourselves in.”

The Concordia factor

“The most valuable thing I got out of my bachelor's degree was realizing I could turn what I was excited about into a career. I had the freedom to self-direct my learning and focus on my passions.”

Thriving in the emergency room

“Major crises really highlight the team aspect of emergency medicine, such as when a child is critically ill or there's been a sudden disaster.

“Many years ago, there was an explosion in a house that resulted in six adults and 14 children coming in. Or just last summer, Barrie was hit by a big tornado.

“It's at these moments that all the obstacles seem to magically fall away. Everyone pulls together and focuses on what they do best.”

Career challenge

“The biggest challenge is not feeling the weight of responsibility for all the flaws of the health-care system, and trying to focus on what is within my control.”

Career highlight

“I like to think that my career highlight has yet to come because I have a lot of years of practice in front of me.”

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