Beyond the Boardroom
Author: Sarah Treseler
February, 2017 Issue
Joshua Weil, M.D., is assistant physician-in-chief of hospital operations in the department of emergency medicine at Kaiser Permanente in Santa Rosa. “I always liked science, but I was deathly afraid of needles, so I never considered medicine as a potential career, “ he admits. “I entered undergraduate school—first at Middlebury College in Vermont, then transferring to UC San Diego—looking towards marine biology. While at UCSD, I took an animal physiology lab class where we would perform surgeries and procedures on rats and that really fired my interest in medicine for the first time.
“After I completed my undergraduate degree I spent a year traveling and working on boats. I met hundreds of people from all walks of life and talked to many of them about their careers. I turned 25 on a 40-foot sailboat in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean and that day I decided I would pursue medicine,” he says. Weil graduated with a BA in biology from UCSD and earned his MD degree from the University of Illinois.
Are you a North Bay native? Where did you grow up?
I'm from New York City, originally, but we moved to California with my mom—my parents divorced parents when I was young—when I was about 7, then moved to Mill Valley with my dad when I was in 6th grade. I consider Mill Valley to be the place I grew up and it was a great place to be a kid in the ‘70s and early ‘80s.
Where do you live now?
I moved to Santa Rosa when I completed my residency training in emergency medicine 18 years ago and I’ve been here ever since
Are you married?
My wife, Claire, and I will be married 25 years this coming July. We dated for about six years before we were married.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Besides convincing my wife to marry me? Raising three healthy, smart, thoughtful, kind children is right up there. In my role at Kaiser Permanente, I can honestly say I helped change the way emergency care is delivered for close to 4 million people, so that has to count for something. On a personal level I'm a two-time Ironman Triathlon finisher, which takes some commitment and I'm proud of that. When I look back at it I don't know how I managed all that training, except to say that I have a really tolerant spouse.
What was the best vacation you’ve ever been on?
I'm not sure if you could call living abroad for six months in New Zealand a "vacation," but it was a great time, for sure. I had a low-key approach to work as I was just doing clinical medicine, and had fewer commitments. I loved New Zealand and we spent a tremendous amount of time together as a family. My wife home-schooled the kids and they did school when I was at work, so we had lots of time to travel and explore. It was terrific.
What’s something you’ve won, and how did you win it?
I was named a Kaiser Permanente Everyday Hero and an American Red Cross Real Hero for the humanitarian relief work I've done responding to international disasters.
What’s the most dangerous situation you’ve encountered? How did you react?
I've been in situations where people have pulled out guns—not aimed at me—or where violent patients have escalated in the emergency department. I don't usually back down, but will try to talk the person down. Probably unwise, especially given my small stature, but perhaps because I'm not that big, people don't think of it as a threat and will frequently relax. Of course, there are often some big people standing behind me in these situations.
I've also spent time in third world countries during a crisis and sometimes things can be dicey. There was a bomb that went off in a building across the street from the hospital where we were working in Sri Lanka and once in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, I was kind of trapped in a car when I thought a riot was about to break out. That was a little scary because I didn’t see a way out of the situation, but I didn't panic and eventually everything dissipated.
What’s your favorite candy?
Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. Is that even a question?
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