Dr. Tina Mele: A prominent passion for critical care
As a general surgeon and critical care physician, Dr. Tina Mele has just completed a long, exhausting night of operating. Practising at London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC) on what are sometimes 12- or 15-hour shifts, Dr. Mele is the first to admit that acute care surgery requires a huge time sacrifice.
“The whole concept of work-life balance is so difficult to manage; I don’t think you can have it all at the same time,” she said. “But it’s the passion and desire to help my patients that keeps me going.”
Thinking back to her start in medicine, Dr. Mele recalls being inspired by a local ophthalmologist whose office she volunteered in during her teenage years. “I was completely amazed by his ability to affect change and improve the quality of life of his patients,” she said. “He was making people see again, and it was incredible to watch their response.”
Today, Dr. Mele is the one affecting change. The Ontario Medical Association (OMA) was contacted by one of her former patients who was on life support for six weeks in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at LHSC. “I owe her my life,” the patient wrote in an email. “This medical professional deserves and has my gratitude and esteem.”
Upon hearing this correspondence, Dr. Mele reacted with chills. “I’m overwhelmed and humbled by her praise,” she said. “There’s so much sacrifice in this job, but how can you not continue when patients react like that?”
It’s testimonials like these that reaffirm to Dr. Mele that she’s on the right track. And even though not all patient stories will result in a success, she strives to make every journey a positive one for patients and families, too.
“It’s difficult to deal with when a patient doesn’t end up surviving,” she said. “But you pause and reflect on it; as long as I know I did all that I could and provided the best care I could in the circumstance, it takes the edge off a less-than-optimal outcome.”
Despite the stress, long hours and emotions involved, Dr. Mele says she’s confident in her career choice. “I love what I decided to spend my time doing,” she said. “I spent a lot of time as a medical student trying to pick the right specialty and sub-specialty, and I always tried to follow what was in my heart to pursue.”
Now, more than 10 years into her career, this is the same advice that she passes on to students. “I always tell them to pick something they’ll love doing,” she said. “Unless you have a passion and calling for what you do, it will be really challenging.”
But at the end of the day (even the extremely long ones), this passion is what keeps her going. “I save lives,” she said. “How many people get to say that?”
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