Meet Your New Board Members – Dr. Hisham Tassi and Dr. Michael Gray

A new voice on Doctors Manitoba’s Board of Directors

Dr. Hisham TassiDr. Hisham Tassi

Dr. Tassi is right where he wants to be, doing exactly what he wants.

“I love my work. I love what I do. I love living in Thompson. And the work conditions are perfect for me and my lifestyle,” says Tassi.

The 43-year-old internist makes that declaration midway through a lengthy conversation about his past, present, and future. It’s easy to see that Tassi has packed a lot of life in his four decades on earth.

Tassi was born in Lebanon. He attended the American University in Beirut. He graduated with a teaching
degree in 1994 and then taught biology in a high school. That lasted one year. Teaching high school wasn’t for him “I needed to be something more. I wanted, I needed to continue my education.”

Tassi thought he might pursue a PhD and embrace the life of a researcher. But medicine had a stronger pull. At Kursk State Medical University in central Russia, Tassi graduated from medical school. Post-graduate work in internal medicine followed at the University of Western Ontario in Canada. But Tassi also knew he wasn’t finished pursuing an even higher education.

He wanted to know more about cardiac diseases and to study cardiology. That’s exactly what he did at Kharkiv Medical Academy of Post-Graduate Education in the Ukraine. In Kharkiv, Tassi received a post-graduate degree and fellowship in cardiology.

In 2004, Tassi moved to Thompson to work at the Northern Region Health Authority. There’s nowhere else in Canada he would live, he says.

“Thompson has been very good to me.”

That’s great news for the northern Manitoba hub. But just because Tassi loves his present circumstances, doesn’t mean he’s settling. Genetics has become a passion, but so too has psychiatry.

“It’s really about seeking more knowledge.”

When a patient presents with chest pain, Tassi explains, he can look for and hopefully find the problem. And then he can treat it.

“When I can fix it, it’s very satisfying, but some of the chest pain can go back to psychology and anxiety. I want to understand that too.”

“I want to have a better understanding of human psychology, psychiatry and psychiatric disease,” he adds.

That thirst for understanding and attention to underlying issues will serve Tassi well in his new position on the Doctors Manitoba board. He comes to the job with lots of advocacy experience already. He’s a former board member of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Manitoba. Now he takes a seat with Doctors Manitoba.

“I love the work that Doctors Manitoba does. I want to be a part of that,” says Tassi. “I want to be an advocate, help make their work better, and make better working conditions.”

A strong, new advocate joins Doctors Manitoba’s Board of Directors

Dr. Michael GrayDr. Michael Gray

Two times a week, Dr. Michael Gray drives from Portage la Prairie to Winnipeg. In the city, the squash court calls.

The high-energy ritual keeps the 56-year-old feeling great physically. Keeping fit has always been an important part of Gray’s life outside the hospital walls. He has run two marathons (so far) and also loves to cycle and swim. It’s about practicing what you preach.

“Patients are living longer, and often ask their physicians for advice on aging well,” Gray says.

“Physical activity is a well-studied factor in achieving a healthy lifestyle as we age.”

With Gray’s busy schedule, honestly, there’s not a lot of free time for training. Like many rural doctors he balances a family practice with hospital work. Half his time is spent practicing family medicine, and the other half he’s in the emergency room, intensive care unit, and delivering babies, among other calls in the hospital.

He’s also gone into business. Gray is in the midst of building an apartment complex across from the Portage District General Hospital. He’s hoping residents considering training at the hospital will be enticed, in part, by the proximity of great accommodations. Gray wants make residency in Portage la Prairie an attractive prospect to new doctors. He also wants to bridge any real or imagined divides between rural and urban physicians.

Gray’s new position as a board member for Doctors Manitoba will foster city and country ties within the profession.

In that vein, it’s his responsibility to support the board in their efforts while bringing voice to the issues and concerns or rural physicians, Gray says. His role on the Doctors Manitoba board is clear.

“Essentially my function on the board will be to work in collaboration with other board members to improve or, at the very least, maintain the working environment of physicians, such that they are in situations where by they are able to provide the best available health care to Manitobans.”

Like other physicians, emergency room wait times are a concern, he says. Transferring rural patients to the city with ease is sometimes challenging, adds Gray. But relationships and mutual respect between rural and urban doctors is growing and strengthening, Gray believes.

A United Kingdom native, Gray took his training at home, graduating in 1983 from medical school. He trained in family medicine before specializing in anesthesia. He was an anesthetist for 15 years before stepping away from that specialty in 2010.

Gray is also a lifelong learner. He excelled in school from the very beginning. And he loved learning too. That drive and enthusiasm for knowledge has never gone
away. And the Internet makes it easier to continue learning and growing, Gray says.

Delving into the latest research, learning about advancements in care, treatment and cures, and connecting with peers keeps medicine interesting, fresh and builds physician confidence.

Gray has no plans for early retirement, he adds. While others may be thinking about winding down, his batteries are charged.

“I’m finding, even more recently,” Gray says. “I’m enjoying being a doctor even more because there’s so much more access to education.”