Oct. 27, 2021

Doctor thrilled to see overdose response concept brought to life

2021 Top 40 Under 40: Dr. S. Monty Ghosh, BSc’03, MSc’04, MD’09
S. Monty Ghosh
S. Monty Ghosh Jared Sych, Avenue magazine

Triple-alumnus Dr. S. Monty Ghosh, BSc’03, MSc’04, MD’09, is so busy smashing barriers in our social and health-care systems, he doesn’t have time to hang out in his favourite spaces — libraries.

Dr. Ghosh is a physician, clinical assistant professor at the University of Calgary, and assistant professor at the University of Alberta.

Do you remember any classes or professors who were exceptional?

Dr. Darius Holland from my first-year calculus in 2001. He was an excellent professor who made learning math fun. The course was difficult, but he went out of his way to make complex concepts easier to comprehend and digest. 

Where did you hang out on campus? 

I’m a huge nerd, but I love communal studying spaces. MacKimmie Library was my go-to place to get work done. Even to this day, I will park myself in campus libraries to get work done and stay focused on projects. I enjoy the atmosphere.

What has been your biggest career highlight to date?

I very much enjoy program development and innovation. My biggest career highlight was seeing the National Overdose Response Service operationalize and work. When we reversed our first overdose, our team was super-excited and thrilled. The project initially came from an untested idea and just a hypothesis, and to see the project work in real life was an incredible feeling. All of us were grateful.

What do you wish more people understood about addiction issues and homelessness?

Many view substance-use issues to be a moral failing and a choice, but nothing can be further from the truth. It’s a medical condition and should be treated as one. If we treated substance-use disorders like other medical conditions, I’m certain we could reduce the stigma behind it, which includes the criminalization of substances. No other medical condition is as stigmatized as addiction and this needs to change.

Much of homelessness and substance-use stems from adverse childhood experiences and past trauma. If we took time to listen to the background and stories from those who experience homelessness, we could better appreciate their experience, pain and where they come from. For many who don’t see or understand homelessness, understanding the human side of it can help foster empathy and compassion, two things that are greatly needed in serving this population. 

What is the most satisfying aspect of your job?

The relationships we build as a community and the friendships we make. The sector I work in is quite diverse with people from different systems including social services, justice, health and government, and, while these different groups create complexity around solutions, they also add to the richness of the work. There is so much I learn from my various colleagues in this sector. 

A guilty pleasure?

Visiting and spending time in libraries. As mentioned earlier, I’m rather obsessed with them and find them relaxing and enjoyable. I especially enjoy them if they are historical or architecturally unique.

Why is mentorship important?

My mentors were instrumental in guiding me. Often, when I ran into situations or complex problems, my mentors were the first people I turned to for advice. They also provided opportunities and opened doors that were otherwise closed. When I first started working on the idea of virtual supervised consumption, I was having trouble gaining support for the idea, as many thought it would not work. By chance, I met my future mentor at a social-services event, and informally discussed the idea with him not knowing who he was. Believing in me, he helped share the idea with key influential individuals and guided me to make the idea a reality. I owe a lot to the mentorship and support I’ve received from them.

When you are not working, what do you do? 

When I’m not working, I love hanging out with friends and also travelling. I spent a good chunk of my youth backpacking through parts of South America, Africa and Asia, and it was by far the best informal education I have received, teaching me resiliency and appreciation for other peoples and cultures.

With files from Avenue Magazine.