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Dr. Calvin Sun: Healing From the COVID Frontlines (ep. 522)

Dr. Calvin Sun

John O’Leary welcomes ER physician who tirelessly worked in seven emergency rooms in New York City since the early days of the global pandemic to the Live Inspired Podcast.

In March 2020, as state of emergencies were issued, stay-at-home orders were mandated and the doors to schools, offices and businesses were shuttered, the fear of what was to come was undeniable.

And yet, our essential healthcare workers courageously risked their own lives to fight for the lives of their patients… all while being woefully unprepared in terms of sufficient PPE, ventilators or ICU beds.

Today, we’re joined by Dr. Calvin Sun, an emergency room physician who has tirelessly worked in seven emergency rooms in New York City since the early days of the global pandemic.

In addition to sharing how finding his life’s purpose lead him to his work in New York ERs, Calvin will share about his journey growing up as a young Asian American in New York, the grief he experienced after losing his father as a teen, and the lessons he learned from traveling to more than 190 countries in ten years.

My friends, this conversation will help us reframe moments of anxiety, tragedy or uncertainty into possibility, hope and reason to believe that the best of our days truly remain ahead.

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  • When unable to communicate through words or emotions, Calvin’s parents communicated by physical needs.
  • “It’s excruciating when a relationship fails because of failed expectations.” – Calvin on his relationship with his parents
  • Although his test scores and transcripts weren’t ideal, Calvin was accepted into medical school because of his empathy, outlook on life and how he faced tragedy.
  • Coined by himself and his co-travelers, Calvin refers to his style of travel on “monsooning”, meaning they’d travel fast, dynamic and adventurous but without having to scarafice their day jobs.
  • I don’t like this movie. Turn it off. After returning from African nation of Angola during the onset of the pandemic, Calvin was immediately thrown onto the front lines of diagnosing and caring for patients who were experiencing the virus.
  • During the height of COVID, Calvin and his team were expected to ration care which made him feel purposeless.
  • To cope with PTSD and other lingering effects of the pandemic, Calvin encourages us to acknowledge and honor that everyone shares as a collective trauma.
  • Whoever said only sunshine brought happiness has never danced in the rain.”
  • “We either die heroes ignored or live long enough to become villains castigated.”
  • “Ten years of imposter syndrome, cognitive dissonance, learned helplessness, endless boundless doubt. And yet privilege and gratitude.”
  • Get a copy of Dr. Calvin Sun’s The Monsoon Diaries.

Did you enjoy today’s episode?

Listen to my conversation with Lisa Brennan-Jobs. While widely recognized as one of the most influential inventors of our time by pioneering the personal computer, the iPod and iPhone, Steve Jobs shared a complicated relationship with his eldest daughter. Hear Lisa share about the complicated relationship with her iconic father and how spent a painful childhood seeking recognition, acceptance and approval from Apple’s visionary leader. Listen to ep. 216 now.


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  1. Q. What is the best book you’ve ever read?

    A Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion, The Alchemist by Paula Coelho and Life of Pi by Yann Martel.

  2. Q. What is a characteristic or trait that you possessed as a child that you wish you still exhibited today?

    Eager curiosity.

  3. Q. Your house is on fire, all living things and people are out. You have the opportunity to run in and grab one item. What would it be?

    My diary that I’ve kept since I was six years old.

  4. Q. You are sitting on a bench overlooking a gorgeous beach. You have the opportunity to have a long conversation with anyone living or dead. Who would it be?

    My dad and I’d ask him what he meant when he said he was proud of me. Not because I need to know but he needed to know why he said that.

  5. Q. What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

    Sleep well.

  6. Q. What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

    Trust the process.

  7. Q. It’s been said that all great people can have their lives summed up in one sentence. How do you want yours to read?
    A. It depends.