Dr. Sandy Buchman
Role at the Centre
Year started at the Centre
Year became a doctor
Shares a practice with
Dr. Sandy Buchman describes himself as a lifelong learner. When you talk to him about his passions and experiences as a doctor, it’s easier to see how and why he now does what he does. “It’s been an evolution,” he says. “Palliative medicine is so multi-faceted you have to evolve towards it.”
The first lesson came from family medicine, where he learned “the importance of dealing with the patient as a human being, rather than a set of symptoms, which is such a significant factor in effective health care,” he says.
The next lesson wandered through the door of his Mississauga practice in 1984, three years after Dr. Buchman graduated. “He was an HIV patient,” he says, “the first I’d seen.”
That patient propelled him on to a whole new path. “As a young physician in a family practice, you don’t typically have to deal with something like that,” he says. “These were young men, they were dying and we couldn’t help them. In family practice, you’re normally delivering babies.”
He could have passed his HIV patients on to a unit at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, which was dealing with the AIDS epidemic. But Sunnybrook was a long way from Mississauga, and the patients were too sick to make the journey. “You don’t abandon your patients,” he says. “I began to learn.”
It was his first experience with palliative care, and it made a deep impression.
Home care is another thread which has run through Dr. Buchman’s professional life. “I was always interested in obstetrics,” he says. During his residency he studied home birthing. “Home care intrigued me,” he says. “There’s always a different feel to house calls; an informality to the relationship which helps to build trust.”
“Home dying is not so very different to home birthing,” he says. “They’re both natural processes, and it’s the doctor’s job to support the patient and their loved ones, alleviate the symptoms, and to ensure the process is safe and controlled, and proceeds with comfort and dignity.”
The final thread is a spiritual one. “I’m not an overtly religious person,” Dr. Buchman says, “but I do feel an obligation to help in the work of repairing the world. People suffer so much, and helping to lessen that suffering is one way I can fulfill this obligation.”
His work with the Temmy Latner Centre draws upon every thread woven into his professional life, allowing him to look at his work in, as he puts it, a more holistic way, “solving the problems using the totality of all I’ve seen and learned.”