Dr. David Hepburn is a retired general practitioner who has been primarily located in Victoria, British Columbia, for 30 years. He graduated from the University of Ottawa in 1986 and has been on the go ever since. His constant need to keep learning and to make a difference has created several once in a lifetime experience for him.
Dr. Hepburn has been a radio personality, television co-host, and a physician for Olympic athletes. He served as a doctor during the Persian Gulf War and has volunteered in some very remote areas in the Amazon and South Pacific, treating medical issues for the local communities with little to no modern medical technology. He is also a published author of “The Doctor Is In(sane)”, a book that takes a humorous look at today’s medical field. Dr Hepburn has been awarded Columnist of the Year for his newspaper contributions.
In recent years, Dr. Hepburn has put a lot of focus on researching and educating the world about medical cannabis. He is an international speaker and has helped countries through the process of education, legalization, and regulation for the plant. He is a member of several cannabis-related boards, including the Society of Cannabis Clinicians and the International Association for Cannabinoid Medicines.
In his free time, Dr. Hepburn enjoys coaching his children in hockey and baseball. He also loves playing hockey, learning musical instruments, and hiking. Most of all, he enjoys adding to his knowledge regarding medical cannabis by reviewing as much new research as possible on the subject.
Why did you choose to become a doctor?
I think it’s a combination of the fact that I am a ‘people person’ and the challenge of something that is academic that is always changing. I love to learn new things and medicine is an ever-evolving field that allows you to grow as a person while helping others. It also allows me to truly be myself, I tend to use humor in my life and this profession gives me the opportunity to do that every day.
Why did you choose your specialty?
As a general practitioner, I have had the fortune of several specialties. I have been a media physician, a military physician. I have been a doctor on a remote island for some time and I have been an instructor. Really, no other field will allow this much diversity within your own area of expertise. I can’t think of anything I’d rather be doing.
What is your daily routine?
I am one of those people who uses lists so I know when I have completed a task. There are several things I make sure to do each day. One is to read 20 pages of something every day, even if its Archie and Jughead Go to Kentucky. I also make sure I write for at least 30 minutes each day. Thirdly, I do four full lessons in a foreign language. I also always be sure to make time to exercise every day. Everything else throughout the day can be highly variable for me.
When you look forward in your career, what trend do you see making the most impact and why?
As physicians are beginning to understand the effects of medical cannabis in the medical world, I believe it is only going to become more widely used. The amount of research that is now emerging shows how this can be used to treat seizure disorders, chronic pain, and other chronic conditions. I feel like we are at a global tipping point with regard to medical cannabis. Our knowledge is only going to increase as we continue to apply it to these medical issues and learn what others it can help with.
Another trend that I am excited about is the intimate shrinking intersection between biotechnology and information technology. We are advancing so much with things like artificial intelligence and it is being used in the medical field to further our understanding of how the body functions. We have better imaging systems than ever before. We can see things and test for things with better reliability.
What do you love most about your job?
What I love most is researching and giving advice on what I have learned. As each new study is done, we gain more knowledge on how medical cannabis can change how we treat some of our most chronic medical conditions.
What do you consider the greatest accomplishment in your career?
I think my greatest accomplishment was affecting the country of Peru. I helped them completely change their policy regarding medical cannabis. The minister of health for Peru specifically stood up at a congressional meeting and suggested that all my recommendations for the regulations around cannabis be accepted. She did this in the face of a lot of opposition. That was in the summer of 2018 and it was a jaw-dropping moment for me.
I have also been recognized as a columnist for my newspaper writing, both in Canada and in Arizona. My book was awarded as well, and I am a horrible writer. I am a great storyteller and I think that’s what helped me with these things that are outside of my professional training.
Can you share some of your volunteer activities?
I was a Boy Scout leader for 14 years because my kids were scouts. I play piano for church choirs. I have belonged to the David Foster Foundation for the last eight years. I participate in Community Spirit Christmas Dinners. I take a lot of pride in my cranberry sauce. I also do volunteer my speaking to organizations that may not be able to afford my typical fee, but want to learn the information.
I have also volunteered on a remote jungle island, Tanna, in the country of Vanuatu, in the Amazon Jungle, as a general practitioner for an island of over 30,000 people. The team handled everything that came through the door, from minor colds to major surgeries, all with limited access to modern medical facilities. While on another excursion into the Amazon River basin, I was able to help a gentleman who was significantly crippled. It became a huge story in Peru because he is over seven feet tall, so he was already well-known and I helped to commission the creation of the world’s largest wheelchair for him.
Where do you want to be in your career in 5 years?
I would like to be right where I am now, but with more understanding and knowledge on the medical cannabis movement.
What do you feel would be most helpful in people understanding the benefits of medical cannabis?
I think people are sometimes too easily persuaded by stigmas, with ideas that are easily formed and fiercely defended, without direct reasoning for it. I think the lack of education is the source of many problems on this planet. People refuse to be open-minded or be more understanding of others’ situations or of new research on topics they don’t fully understand. The world is shrinking and we need to listen to each other. As a doctor, I have learned that you need to listen to patients. You need to be open to unlearning to be able to really learn. We cannot rely on previous biases and we need to be considerate of others’ opinions. Trusting what we have been told to believe, not based on anything real, tends to bring more grief than we realize.
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