What would Patrick Dempsey do?

Everyone needs a Patrick Dempsey T-Shirt


The only way out is through.
– Robert Frost


(In last week’s post, I shared resources on COVID-19; you can read them here.  Here’s another for this week: tracking the COVID-19 curve by Financial Times.)

“What would Dr. Hinshaw do?” t-shirts have hit the Internet.  Dr. Hinshaw is Alberta’s CMOH for those of you not familiar with her.  This reminded me of my own brilliant t-shirt idea I had over a decade ago.  There’s a lesson attached to the idea and the lesson is still relevant today in this time of COVID-19.

The Backstory

In my younger years, I worked as a Research Assistant in the (Dr. Jason) McDougall Pain and Inflammation Lab at the University of Calgary.  I had the opportunity to do a research project looking at whether a compound could reduce joint inflammation.  I’ll summarize the nerdiness of it this way: I used tiny animal research superheroes (mice) to look at their teensy-weensy arteries under a microscope to observe blood flow.  I was one of only a couple of people at the University at the time who was trained in the technique needed to perform the study.  The method was risky because it involved putting the mice to sleep.  Mice don’t sit still for you under a microscope.  We should work on training them, but I digress.

I was a mouse anesthesiologist.  The technique had a steep learning curve.  If I messed up the experiment, I would overdose the mouse and not only kill the little dude but collect no research data.  Needless to say, a bad day at the office was heartbreaking.  I would cry with guilt every time I accidentally sent a mouse to heaven.

The Breakthrough

One day I remembered an episode of Grey’s Anatomy.  (I had a lot of time on my hands during these experiments so I thought up all sorts of weird shit.)  In it, Dr. Dreamy McDreamerson, the character played by Patrick Dempsey, was attempting to save the day.  He was performing ground-breaking brain surgery as I gather he often did.  In this particular show, he was having a hard go of it.  He kept having to take a break, regroup, and start again.  He was so dreamy, and calm, and dreamy through it all.  At that moment, in my cramped tiny lab barely larger than a broom closet, I thought to myself, “If he was in my situation, what would Patrick Dempsey do?”  He would pause, breathe, believe in his abilities, and begin again.

From that day on, I never lost another mouse.

The lesson: Daydreaming about Patrick Dempsey can make you a better researcher.  It also reminds us that the way through a situation is through.  

In this time of COVID-19, there’s no way to go but through.  Calm confidence is the best way to get there.  Do your best and don’t judge yourself or others too harshly for their actions.

Incidentally, mice are the unsung heroes in the race to develop a coronavirus vaccine.  Read more on this topic here from the New York Times.

Thank you for reading, forwarding, and emailing; I’m grateful.  I can’t always respond to all the emails I receive but I always read them.

Stay safe, healthy, and responsibly connected,

x KM


Fun Facts

On a lighter note, here are two little-known facts about Patrick Dempsey:

  1. Through The Dempsey Center and Dempsey Challenge, he supported Cancervive Cycle Tour, formally Cancervive Peloton Project, in 2012. I’ve been involved in the cancer-support charity bike ride since 2014.  Clearly, my timing was a tad off.
  2. I knew and loved McDreamy eons before most of the world knew his name.

I first saw him on an episode of The Magical World of Disney TV Series called A Fighting Choice (1986).  He played Kellin Taylor, a teenager with epilepsy who was suing his parents for the chance to have life-altering brain surgery to treat his disorder.

I give credit to Patrick Dempsey, his character really, for teaching me one of my first drawing tricks.  Can’t seem to sketch something from a photo reference without it looking like your cat drew it?  Flip it upside down.  This tricks the brain into seeing shapes instead of recognizable things.  Don’t’ believe me?  Give it a go.  We have lots of time on our hands right now to try new things.  You’re welcome.



Photo credit: Getty Images

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