If you’re still trying wrap your mind around the Karpman triangle, the 3 Cs, and Kairos from last week’s post, don’t worry, we have some back to the basics goodness for you. Dr. Heather Murray (@HeatherM211) is an emergency physician primarily but wears many hats: Medical School Leader, Teacher of Evidence-Based Medicine, Journal Editor, Epidemiologist, and Canadian National Board Examiner. I have been told that she is a budding meme expert. But beyond titles, she clearly leaves a lasting impression with her learners. Indeed, fourth year medical student Eve Purdy nominated her to be part of the series. Dr. Murray kindly shared her pearls of wisdom with us.



  • Name: Heather MurrayHeather Murray Head Shot
  • Location: Kingston, Ontario, Canada (home of Queen’s University)
  • One word that best describes how you work: Intensely
  • Current job:  I have at least 3 jobs – I’m an academic emergency physician at Queen’s. I’m the director of 2nd year at our medical school. I’m the scholar competency lead as well (translation: I run the evidence-based medicine and research skills training program at our medical school). In my spare time I’m a decision editor at the Canadian Journal of Emergency Medicine.
  • Current mobile device: iPhone 4S (iPhone 6 in March when my plan lets me upgrade)
  • Current computer: MacBook Air


What’s your office workspace setup like?

Heather Murray Office

Double screens are the best for document editing and writing. Other essentials include a notepad – not a computer but an actual lined notepad – for daily tasks. I can’t let go of a pen – it feels good to write and cross things off manually. Like others, I use a whiteboard with active projects/deadlines listed, and can’t survive without Dropbox. Other essential items include several coffee cups, reading glasses and some nice things to remind me what’s important when I look up: pictures and notes from my kids and a canoe painting to remind me to unplug.

What’s your best time-saving tip in the office or home?

I set up my day with 3 tasks – a “must do,” a “should do” and a “nice to do.” Get those done and the rest is gravy (and I feel like a superhero).

What’s your best time-saving tip regarding email management?

I set my iPhone timer to limit the time I spend on email in a sitting – otherwise it can take over my day and I don’t do the things I need to do. So, 45 minutes at the start of the day and then I don’t open it again until I’ve finished a task. The timer really helps me avoid being hijacked. I work offline in between deluges of email.

What’s your best time-saving tip in the ED?

It’s counterintuitive, but sitting down and taking a careful history with each patient saves me loads of time. I leave the bedside with a differential diagnosis and a solid plan, and don’t need to go back and perform more exams or ask more questions. The best part? My patients are happy and I’ve established a nice bond by sitting and not appearing rushed or distracted.

ED charting: Macros or no macros?

No macros. I’m too old and set in my ways to convert. I’ve been writing on charts for decades and use that process to distill my thoughts, and I can’t give up control over my thinking to a macro. I’ll make mistakes! I worry that every chest pain and abdo pain look the same with a macro, and each one has a nuance or twist that I can capture better in free text. It’s more time consuming, but that’s a tradeoff I can live with.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received about work, life, or being efficient?

It’s in David Sackett’s classic article “On the Determinants of Academic Success as a Clinician-Scientist.” If you haven’t read it, he talks in detail about 3 things:

  • Mentorship
  • Periodic Priority Lists
  • Time Management

This is timeless wisdom from a legendary figure.

Who would you love for us to track down to answer these same questions?

I’d love to hear from 2 non-emergency physicians and one Emergency Medicine legend:

  1. Dr. Bob Connelly (@Bob_Connelly) – neonatologist and renowned Queen’s University teacher. He is amazingly productive, technologically savvy and a design wizard.
  2. Dr. David Juurlink (@DavidJuurlink) – internist, toxicologist and clinical scientist at Sunnybrook in Toronto. His Twitter feed is filled with his practical, important research and useful tips for those of us in the ED trenches.
  3. Dr. Ian Stiell (@EMO_Daddy) – no introduction needed!

Benjamin Azan, MD

Benjamin Azan, MD

Emergency Physician
Lincoln Medical Center
Founder/Editor of foambase.org
Benjamin Azan, MD


ED attending in NYC, #FOAMed enthusiast, #MedEd, founder of https://t.co/29SO7xxO8X
Benjamin Azan, MD

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