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For Our Community

Observations from an Island Transplant


Kirk E. Weber, MD, FACEP, is one of the first physicians hired to practice at Big Sky Medical Center. He joined the staff in June 2015, as an emergency medicine specialist, and was there when the first patients came through the Emergency Department doors. Here he shares some of his humorous observations on working at Big Sky Medical Center and how it differs from his previous work environment:

First off, I need to say how much of a pleasure it has been to work in the Emergency Department at Big Sky Medical Center. The staff has been outstanding and the community has fully embraced us.

I moved here from Hilo on the big island of Hawaii, where I had worked in Emergency Medicine for the past 17 years. Although I enjoyed Hawaii and my position there, it was time for a change, time for something new and different. Montana–and Big Sky in particular–have not disappointed. It is a wonderful outdoor playground and a vibrant community. It's been an exciting place to live and a very enjoyable place to work.

I have had a fair amount of cultural adjustments to make however. For one thing, I had to buy a lot of clothes. It gets really cold here and I'm told this was a mild winter. Also, I've had to learn to nod and say howdy, instead of my old greeting with a shaka and ‘howzit’. [Editor’s note: According to Urban Dictionary, ‘howzit’ is a term locals in Hawaii use to greet each other. It is the equivalent of the ‘haole’ or greeting "How are you?"]

When, by habit, I gave a shaka to someone, they just gave me a blank stare. I think they thought it was a gang sign. I guess they didn’t know it’s just a Hawaiian style wave!

At my old ER job in Hawaii, most of the trauma we saw was from motor vehicle accidents, with an occasional surfer or bike accident. With a trauma case, we often cut clothes off to expose the injured body part. In Hawaii it was simply T-shirt and board shorts only and that was it.

After my first week working at Big Sky Medical Center, I had to go out and buy some heavier duty trauma shears because the ones I had weren't doing the job on three to five layers of thick winter clothing.

One of my patients this ski season had a dislocated/fractured shoulder, which made it very difficult to remove her clothing. We had to cut off her four layers of expensive ski clothes to examine her arm and shoulder, after several unsuccessful attempts to remove them without cutting. Of course, I apologized and asked permission. The patient's husband was not happy, but agreed. The patient herself, however, seemed to be pleased, stating that now she would get to go shopping!

As I sit by my fire watching it snow the first week of of April my mind randomly wonders. I'm told by long time Big Sky residents that we have another couple months of winter, although recently it sure felt like spring. I wonder how soon I can take off my snow tires. I wonder what type of injuries we will have this summer. I imagine kayakers’ injury patterns from smacking rocks in the river will be very similar to surfers smacking the reef. The fishhooks we remove from various body parts probably will be much smaller.

I think I am adjusting to the culture pretty well. I saw a herd of elk on the way to work this morning. I wonder if I’ll feel like shooting one by next fall.