Homegrown talent Dr. Sarah Dressler was just a little girl when she first showed an interest in anatomy, pathology and how to fix the human body when something goes wrong with it.
“I remember reading bits of anatomy books when I was a little kid — it was a lifelong interest that became more of a career goal in my teen years,” said Dressler.
Some years later, Dressler has achieved her dreams and more as one of the emergency room doctors at Cariboo Memorial Hospital.
When asked what she feels women in particular bring to the challenging role of ER doctor as International Women’s Day approaches, Dressler, paused for thought, then said strong communication skills are a critical asset in the field of medicine that seems to come by naturally for women.
“Medicine is not a black and white field, it is largely a career of decision making and weighing risks and benefits,” Dressler said, noting often times, of difficult decision making.
“Decisions between patients and doctors and between nurses, doctors and other health professionals. I do not want to imply that many of my male colleagues do not possess these skills, as they largely do, but I do find communication a particular strength of women.”
Born and raised in Williams Lake, Dressler is a trained emergency specialist and has been working in the emergency department since the beginning of 2015.
“I’ve always been a calm person and am able to stay very objective. In horrible situations I don’t wrap myself up in it personally or take it personally,” Dressler said of how she handles the pressures of the job. “I’m able to keep my training and knowledge objectively in my mind and approach it very clinically without emotional involvement.”
That personality trait is probably her biggest asset for her work, she said.
Emergency medicine training is about imagining the worse case scenario and being able to re-evaluate when things are not going as expected. Essential in any emergency room is having a sense of humour, she added.
“I think that’s what attracts people who have the ability to keep it light a lot of the time, which is why I enjoy working there because there are similar-minded people.”
Her shifts go by quickly and she never knows what will be coming in the door.
“The team there is great to work with — I really like the personalities, the team-based work, acute medicine and procedures.”
Cariboo Memorial Hospital’s ER is busy and Dressler said as a team the doctors and nurses needed to know each other inside and out.
“You learn to trust and rely on each other.”
By the time she was a Grade 10 student at Columneetza Secondary School she knew she wanted to go into medicine.
After high school she attended the University of Alberta for a bachelor of science degree and then the UBC Northern Medical Program at the University of Northern British Columbia in Prince George, followed by doing her family practice residency in Cape Breton, N.S.
While in university she worked for the Cariboo Fire Centre initial attack during the summers for eight years which is where she met her husband Leif Dressler who also worked there.
Emergency disaster management has been a part of her life in some form for her whole working career and part of the diverse experience and advantage she gained growing up in the Cariboo Chilcotin.
Upon her completion of medical school, the Dresslers realized the obvious choice once they had children was to return home where both of their families are.
They have two children — Freyja, 6, and Leo, 4.
She only took three months of maternity leave after Leo was born because as an independent contractor she is responsible for finding a replacement.
“There were no locums to be had at that point so it was either that or leave the team high and dry.”
Her schedule is six days on, which finishes off with two midnight to 8 a.m. shifts and then six days off.
When she isn’t working, she loves to hang out with her family and said her erratic schedule gives her lots of time at home.
Chuckling, she said exercise used to be a part of her life before having children, and hopefully will be again soon.
She loves hiking, camping, snowshoeing — any outdoor recreation — which is one of the big reasons they returned to Williams Lake.
Photography is another a favourite hobby, she added.