What's Up, Doc? with Dr. Paul Hannam

Dr. Paul Hannam,
Dr. Hannam joined the hospital as a staff emergency physician in July, 2001.  He has served as chief and medical director of the Department of Emergency Medicine at MGH since 2006.  Dr. Hannam is an Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Toronto. He has specific interests in point-of care ultrasound as well as medical education.


Hi. I’m Dr. Paul Hannam and I specialize in emergency medicine. One of the questions I sometimes get asked is what people can expect when they first arrive at the emergency department. 

The first person that you’ll meet is a triage nurse. Their job is to ask you questions to make sure you don’t have any life threatening illnesses or injuries. The rest of our team will take it from there.  

No matter the time of day or the day of the week, we’ll make sure that you receive the best possible care. 

Often people are interested to know when it’s going to be busy in the emergency department. We’re open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week but we know that sometimes it will be busier than others. Early afternoon, early evenings are definitely our busiest times, but we know that Mondays are also the busiest day of the week. Long weekends and holidays are also busy for us and we increase our staffing to accommodate those numbers of patients. 

Sometimes people are already in the emergency department and they’re wondering why exactly they are waiting. It’s a fair question. Depending on your circumstances, you might need to have some tests done, whether it’s a blood test or an x-ray. Sometimes people require more complicated tests.  Those tests may take a while to interpret or may not be available depending on the time of day. In other cases we may rely on another specialist in the hospital, a surgeon for example. If he or she is operating it might take some time for them to be able to come down and see you.

Regardless, there is a lot of information that we gather. We have several programs in place to make sure that you receive the right information as quickly as possible. We have a large team in the emergency department with a lot of training to provide you with the best possible acute care. As physicians, nurses and related health care providers, we’ll do our best to provide you with what we know to help relieve your symptoms and to provide you with an ongoing plan for your health care.