Emergency cardiac care: In the eye of the hurricane

Interview with Dr. Julie Sirois, Chief of Emergency Medicine at the Montreal Heart Institute

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This article is adapted from the third edition of the Foundation’s magazine

“Everything became clear to me during a humanitarian trip to Sri Lanka, after it was hit by a tsunami that ravaged South Asia. I wanted to take care of people—that feeling had been inside me for a long time and it only grew stronger. That trip solidified my decision to do more for people than I could as a musician.”

Dr. Julie Sirois was initially pursuing a career as an oboist, but instead became Chief of Emergency Medicine at the Montreal Heart Institute in 2021. This superwoman has much to say about her job and what it’s like to work in the emergency room at a specialized centre.

The Montreal Heart Institute: The perfect place to flourish

A practising physician since 2010, Dr. Sirois first specialized in family medicine, then trained in emergency medicine as a subspecialty before joining the Montreal Heart Institute in 2014. “After I finished school, I interned at the Institute and immediately fell in love with the place. The friendly, tight-knit team of doctors here have known each other for years. There’s a clear sense of equity: everyone collaborates on an equal level, whether you’re a nurse or a doctor. It’s wonderful to see.”

At the beginning of her career, she was also excited by the exceptional opportunities that came with working in specialized emergency.

“I’d just come back from the Far North, where I worked at a frontline centre with very limited resources. Compare that to the Institute, which is extraordinary from a technical standpoint—healthcare staff have access to all the tools they need. Our cardiology experts have extensive and specific knowledge, and the quality of patient care is next level.”

At that pivotal stage of her career, Dr. Alain Vadeboncoeur, the Chief of Emergency Medicine at the time, invited her to stay. Seven years later, her mentor passed her the torch and things are running as smoothly as ever.

Working in emergency: The race against the clock

Why choose to be at the frontline every day? For Dr. Sirois, the answer is clear: this energetic woman feels right in her element in the ER. “I love the adrenaline you get from working in acute care. I feel most comfortable, most useful when I’m in the middle of the action. I feed off that rush!”

The advantage of a specialized centre: Having the resources needed to save lives

As an ER doctor at a centre specializing in cardiology, Dr. Sirois sees patients with heart issues every day. She performs resuscitations and assesses why someone may be experiencing chest pain, palpitations or respiratory distress.

“What makes us different from other emergency rooms is that everything we need to take action is right here—scanners, MRIs, operating rooms, you name it. For instance, if a patient comes in and needs emergency heart surgery, we can proceed within 20 minutes because we’re a subspecialty.”

In an environment where every minute counts, these specialized resources make a world of difference. “I remember one of my first shifts as a young doctor here. I was alone and I performed three resuscitations at the same time, which is very rare. If we were in the Far North, these patients would have died under our care—but thanks to the amazing resources at our disposal, we were able to save their lives.”

The Foundation: The cornerstone for training and excellence in emergency services

According to the Chief of Emergency Medicine, the Foundation is at the core of every action in her department at the Montreal Heart Institute. “Thanks to donor support, the emergency team is able to get advanced training to strengthen their knowledge, treat patients faster, and guide them quickly towards the right resource, which means better diagnosing. Education is central to our practice.”

The Foundation has made many training opportunities possible, including in echocardiograms, radiology, virtual reality simulations, knowledge-sharing through clinical case studies, and targeted AI. It’s the kind of knowledge-building that benefits the medicine community at large in Quebec, because doctors who intern at the Institute can bring what they’ve learned to other hospitals throughout the province.

Becoming a global leader in emergency cardiac care

Dr. Sirois is bursting with ideas and sees a bright future for the Institute. “With financial support from the Foundation, we hope to create a fellowship in emergency cardiac care where doctors will train intensively for 12 months to earn their certification. We’re also building a website to share our protocols with the rest of the medical world.”

And what’s her biggest dream? “My vision is for the Institute to be a global leader in emergency cardiac care and for us to share our expertise with other ERs to optimize patient care in this specialized field.” With a passion for teaching, this mother of two has been able to juggle her music and medical careers for a while now. Every day, she swaps her oboe for a stethoscope from an eagerness to treat patients, and firmly believes that by constantly improving yourself where you are, you can truly make a difference in the world.

Would you like to contribute to the advancement and sharing of knowledge in emergency cardiac care? Donate today.


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