Know Your Heroes: Peter Wu

Name: Peter Wu
Title: Staff Internist, Division of General Internal Medicine & Geriatrics
Number of years working in health care: 13
I was born and raised in: Born in Sydney, N.S.; raised in Toronto

I decided to get into health care because of my father. He was a family doctor and has always been my biggest role model, my own personal hero. It only seemed natural to strive to follow in his footsteps. I saw how he impacted the lives of those in his community, whether in Sydney, N.S., or later in Whitby, Ont. where he practiced.

Now, for me personally, I similarly aim to make an impact on the lives of patients, whether through my own direct care, through system level changes to enhance delivery and prevent harm, and by educating the next generation of physicians. 

My role here at UHN is to provide excellent patient care. I have many roles at UHN, but that is the first and most important. I care for patients with multiple issues related to new diagnoses of diseases, progression of underlying chronic illness and complications of therapy.

As an internal medicine and clinical pharmacology/toxicology specialist with educational leadership roles and quality improvement training, my aim is to design the best teaching models and environments for our next generation of physicians, with a specific focus on improving medication safety, reducing unnecessary medications and preventing adverse drug events. This is through my work as Chair of the Pharmacy & Therapeutics Committee, and also through my role as the educational site director for Internal Medicine at Toronto General Hospital.

COVID-19 has affected me by being the hardest period of my professional career. It has strained relationships, pushed us beyond burnout and put an unfair amount of stress and anxiety on us that we still carry today.

We have been part of the first response, the first attendings on the COVID ward and the last attendings who continue to manage these patients.

COVID-19 has also given me an opportunity to use my own skillsets and unique training background to be of service to our hospital community at large. I was a member of the provincial therapeutic working group that was advisory to the Science Table, and this work helped to influence evidence-informed, equitable decision making for UHN’s Pharmacy and Therapeutics Committee that oversaw the approval of new COVID therapeutics and the means to safely introduce these new treatments. I have also been able to publish a number of papers on the psychologic impact of COVID, as well as specific review papers on COVID therapeutics to assist the medical community in managing this disease.

The thing I love the most about my job is
the relationships I get to develop with our resident physicians – seeing their development from newly minted doctors to internal medicine specialists is always great. The most rewarding aspect of this is getting to witness the achievements and growth of our chief medical residents, which is a unique opportunity only afforded at the University of Toronto.

I also love the ability to effect real change through system level changes. Improving the quality of care requires both innovation and the trust of an organization to implement and trial ideas to better the system in which we work.

The most incredible thing I’ve seen at work is the resiliency of our Division. In the face of unending clinical volumes, an unprecedented pandemic with all the fear associated with it and external educational accreditation pressures, we have not only managed to take care of our patients, but we have done it with excellence and we have continued to teach our learners. Further, we have translated all of this into scholarly outputs that will inform practice and ultimately improve the way we deliver care and education in general.

I’m inspired by
my wife and children – my wife for continuing to find new passions and limits while raising our family, and my two boys because of the joy in which they experience the world and the happiness that they bring into our lives.

One of my personal heroes is Dr. Stephen Wu because he – my dad –is the reason I went into health care and is the reason I continue to strive to make our system as good as it can be for our patients. He was a patient himself recently after an unexpected diagnosis of Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis that ultimately led to him receiving a double lung transplant at Toronto General Hospital in 2021.

I often worry about us –us as in health care providers. I worry that we have pushed so hard for so long that it has become a new norm. But this is not sustainable, and we need to find ways to alleviate a workload that can seem ‘usual’ only because it has been present for so long.

I’ve found joy recently from being with family. As the pandemic has changed, as well as our ability to mitigate risk, I realized how sorely I missed the ability to spend time with family, have holiday meals together or go on vacation together.

My favourite movie is Forrest Gump for many reasons, but mainly because I watched it so much when it first came out that now it just really reminds me of much simpler times as a kid.

My ideal day off is getting to sleep in with fresh coffee to wake up to in the morning, spending the day with the kids while my wife and I take turns going for runs, going out for dinner and then watching a movie at home before the bedtime routine.

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