I am the I in IWK – Dr. Santokh Dhillon, Pediatric Cardiologist and Electrophysiologist

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Dr. Santokh Dhillon has been with the IWK Health Centre since moving to Nova Scotia in November of 2014. Being the only pediatric electrophysiologist in the Canadian Maritimes, Dhillon calls himself an ‘electrician of the heart’ and has a clear passion for educating others on, simple, life-saving skills.

Originally from India, Dhillon and his wife moved to Vancouver in 2003 where he worked in pediatrics at the B.C. Children’s Hospital. Being fascinated with the heart, Dhillon pursued further education and training to become a cardiologist and specialized in electrophysiology.

“I’m a bit of a philosophical person,” Dhillon says. “And in philosophy, the heart is a big thing. On the physiological side, the heart is also very amazing.” Pursuing this interest led Dhillon to Edmonton, Boston, and Toronto before making the choice to live in Halifax, Nova Scotia

“There was a need for an electrophysiologist and I knew some of my now-colleagues beforehand,” Dhillon says about making the decisions. “I had a few family members from Cape Breton and they would always talk of how Nova Scotia is beautiful. I just wanted to come and see the world on this side.”

After starting with the IWK, Dhillon began work with the Heart and Stroke foundation on proposed legislation that could put CPR training and AED in all schools across Nova Scotia. With a team of himself, two colleagues, and the support of the IWK the legislature has been in development for the last five years with the soon possibility of becoming a bill.

Dhillon calls this work his ‘passion-project’. “Sudden cardiac arrest can happen to anyone, anywhere and without any warning signs,” says Dhillon. “Teaching this could create a generation of future lifesavers by empowering young people with this skill of CPR training and AED use.”

With clear statistics on the survival rate of cardiac arrest when chest compressions and AED is used, Dhillon says that knowing these basic skills could make a big difference. In his history, Dhillon has worked at some of the largest children’s hospitals, including Boston Children’s Hospital and SickKids. He says that the IWK is special because it’s large enough to make an impact but compact enough to find the support needed to make it happen.

“IWK is a wonderful institution to work for. This is a hospital that I can work at without any stress, it’s a working experience I can’t find anywhere else,” raves Dhillon.

In day-to-day, Dhillon sees patients with various heart issues, which he says is the main reason for him doing what he does.

“Working with children keeps you young. No matter if you’re 60 or 70 or 80 years old, if you’re working with children you will be young. You have to talk to them on the same level, so you have to have a young heart,” Dhillon states with the pun intended.