Spotlight on Dr. Peter Tian

We spoke to Peter about his medical career, his thoughts on research administration and the world's greatest invention.

Danica Erickson - 04 November 2021

Research program team member Peter Tian has been with the program for many years, and is well known for his dedication and willingness to get involved. We spoke to Peter about his medical career, his thoughts on research administration and the world's greatest invention.

Tell us a little about yourself
I'm the research coordinator of the Division of Care of the Elderly. Across the Pacific, in the Philippines, I am an ear-nose-throat (ENT) specialist and a faculty member.

What is your educational or work background? 
In the Philippines, when I was not a full-time student, I was teaching. After my baccalaureate degree in psychology, I taught undergraduate psychology full-time in a rural university. I was influenced by my teachers, who encouraged graduates to serve the people of the Philippines.

Then, following nine years of medical education and ENT specialty training, I taught full-time in a rural medical school for a year and, thereafter, part-time for about seven more years, combined with surgical practice. Here, in Edmonton, my medical career almost launched twice but did not quite fly despite my best effort. So, for the past 10 years, I've been reinventing myself as a jack-of-all-research-support, earning a master of science in clinical epidemiology from the University of Alberta (U of A), completing three quality improvement credentials, and currently doing a master of education in health sciences education program at the U of A. Why an education degree? As I approach the last decade of my career, I'd like to teach a bit, mainly for joy. Faculty members beware: I'd be volunteering incessantly for teaching occasions in the department.

I still do surgical missions and camps in the Philippines, and I teach residents while I’m there as well. Teaching makes me happy: I enjoy interacting with students. The last time I taught was a few months back, when I gave a lecture through Zoom to the residents I teach in the Philippines about basic epidemiology principles. My teaching style is very informal because I don’t want the residents to feel intimidated or too scared to ask questions. 

When I came here in 2009 I didn’t teach, but I have been back to the Philippines several times to do surgical missions. I did eight, two-week surgical missions between 2010 - and 2016, and I'd like to do more in the future. During each of those camps I also try to teach residents. It’s a real treat for me to see patients happy with my services.

What do you do in the Department of Family Medicine?
My official title is research coordinator with the Division of Care of the Elderly.

Unofficially, I instigate laughter. Officially, I consider myself a servant, a butler if you wish, catering to the research-support needs of residents and faculty members. My services are varied, as I like it, including involvement in grant proposals, ethics applications, data analysis, posters/presentations, publications, website maintenance, annual reports online (AROs), and the occasional lecture.

What do you really want people to know about your work with care of the elderly?
My work helps many researchers. All of the researchers I work with have a number of small research projects, but the combined impact of those small projects is substantial. They try to improve healthcare for the elderly.  It is really amazing how the number of small grants can really increase in magnitude. 

You are one of the most organized people in the department. How do you stay on top of things? 
I consider the other support staff in the department my clients. It’s a transaction right? It’s an old philosophy; I try to make people happy and then when I need support I would hope the favour would be returned.  

What inspires you in your work?

The people keep me coming to work: friendships and good working relationships. Okay, I admit the salary does, as well. Somebody has to pay the mortgage!

What has been your most memorable experience to date in your work in the department?
Laughter, coffee, and hugs.

In your free time, what special interests or hobbies do you have?
Netflix is the greatest invention ever!

What three words describe your experience at the U of A? 
Growth, camaraderie, (and now) uncertainty.