There aren’t many people as comfortable talking about urine as Erik Saude, ’00 BSc, ’07 PhD — and certainly not with this level of excitement. And he can talk just as enthusiastically about what he has learned from sputum.
Saude, a researcher and physician currently doing his residency in Calgary emergency rooms, is a guy who truly loves his work. And boy, is he doing a lot of it.
Right now, Saude has no fewer than four research projects on the go, from how best to treat bronchiolitis — a lung disease typically affecting infants — to determining whether people suffering from acute appendicitis really need the added discomfort of chugging two litres of contrast dye before undergoing a CT scan. (Initial results suggest no, which could lead to a significant change in procedure.)
From the earliest days of his academic career at the University of Alberta, Saude was a trailblazer. He was one of the first Canadians to study how nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy — a technology that uses an electromagnetic field to examine chemical compounds — could be applied to medicine. Saude’s efforts in NMR could someday see the technology used not only to quickly diagnose an array of illnesses through a simple urine sample, but also to provide a prognosis.
Erik Saude thrives on juggling a heavy load of research projects and emergency room work but still counts going home to his wife and three young children as the highlight of his day.
"There were some amazing, world-renowned researchers at the U of A that I’ve been so fortunate to work with, like Dr. Brian D. Sykes [’65 BSc, Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry], Dr. Brian Rowe [Department of Emergency Medicine] and Dr. Darryl Adamko [Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry],” he says. “They’re so good at what they do; why would I have gone anywhere else?"
In 2007, as he was finishing up his PhD in biochemistry and a post-doctoral fellowship in pediatrics, Saude talked about wanting to have a career in medicine as well as research. Mission accomplished. On top of the time he’s spending in labs and on computers, Saude is now logging long hours in southern Alberta hospitals. As an emergency room physician in the third year of his residency through the University of Calgary, he’s rotating through ERs at the Foothills Medical Centre, Peter Lougheed Hospital and Rockyview General Hospital.
Accused of being an overachiever, Saude, 34, laughs and insists he’s only trying to measure up in a family jam-packed with high achievers, including a few uncles working at the prestigious Mayo Clinic in the United States. “I’m just over-compensating,” he jokes.
Saude was raised in Camrose, Alta., by a Lutheran pastor and a career counsellor, and says he was blessed with fantastic parents who encouraged their innately curious boy with a big appetite for learning. And Saude knew at a young age exactly what he wanted to do when he grew up.
“I was drawn to the academic drive of medicine combined with the human interaction, and how together they could allow me to really help people.”
“The more you do, the more you realize how little you know. I’ll never find all of the answers.”
He got his bachelor of science in biology and chemistry at the Augustana Campus. It was there that he met his wife, Robyn Saude (Danyluk), ’01 BA, ’03 BEd, though the love connection didn’t happen until they crossed paths again while studying in Edmonton, where Saude was getting his PhD.
The couple now lives in Calgary with three small children. At the time of this interview, Saude was waiting for a phone call from Robyn, due to give birth to their third at any moment. (It turned out to be a long wait — baby Olin arrived one week later.)
With one foot in a lab and another in an ER, Saude admits it can be challenging to find family time, but he’s trying his best.
“After those long days, nothing’s better than coming home and having your kids run up and say ‘Daddy!’ ”