McMaster University

McMaster University

Faculty of
Health Sciences

McMaster MD graduate is into saving people

Published: May 22, 2015

When Blair Bigham was a life guard in high school, he saved someone from drowning.

He became an ambulance paramedic, then, in 2006, a flight paramedic on helicopters. He was saving people, at least getting them to the surgery. He has kept that job part time while obtaining his master of science in resuscitation and now, his medical degree.

He's one of 193 new physicians graduating from the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine on Friday, May 22 during the McMaster University's 2015 convocation for the Faculty of Health Sciences. A total of 475 students from midwifery, physician assistant, Bachelor of Health Sciences and several specialty diplomas and graduate degrees, will also cross the Hamilton Place stage at the 2:30 p.m. ceremony.

Bigham has enjoyed his work for ORNGE, the Ontario air ambulance service, and he found it complemented his experiences as a medical student.

"The best part of being a flight paramedic is circling accident scenes as you're on final approach and seeing all the lights of the ambulances and firetrucks and police cars from your 2,000-foot view, and coming in and getting right close up to the patient and actually jumping into the car," said Bigham.

He said for anybody who likes acute care medicine, working on the air ambulance with the "sickest of the sick" is fascinating, and that sometimes he is "literally going from the helicopter straight to the operating room and as you move the person onto the table, the surgeon is cutting."

But the Scarborough native decided he wanted to expand his length of interaction with patients.

"As paramedics we only see people for a short period of time and we never find out what happens to them. I wanted to know what happened to them and be more involved in their care."

He chose McMaster for problem-based learning, the fact that it is a three-year program, and because he knew people who attended and spoke very highly of it. International work stood out for him, and he spent a month in Uganda and a month in Nepal doing emergency medicine.

As for his future, it's not a big surprise. He is staying at the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine for a residency in emergency medicine at Hamilton hospitals, and hopes to follow up with a fellowship in the intensive care unit.

"Being a paramedic is a fabulous job. Being a doctor will be even better."

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