For most people, vacations are a time for rest and relaxation, usually in a warm and sunny place where the most taxing of daily demands might be deciding what’s for dinner.
So when Dr. Suneet Singh, the newly appointed medical director of the BC Renal Agency’s provincial PD committee, describes a recent vacation – a 21-day trek in the Himalayan country of Bhutan, at altitudes of up to 6,000 metres – you start to suspect she isn’t like most people. On that particular adventure she suffered a bout of altitude sickness. As holiday discomforts go that’s just not the same as mild sunburn from too much time on a beach.
As it turns out, Suneet is no stranger to high altitudes. In fact, her mountain climbing adventures have taken her around the world. She’s climbed Mount Kilimanjaro (5,900 m) in Africa, Machu Pichu (2,400 m) in Peru, and Annapurna (6,000 m) in Nepal.
As an apparent change, her next vacation will be a cycling holiday. But she won’t be touring the vineyards of southern France. She’ll be on a mountain bike riding the 850 km road from Llhasa in Tibet to Kathmandu in Nepal. That road, incidentally, runs past the base camp of Mount Everest and reaches elevations of 4,500 metres.
Clearly Suneet enjoys a challenge. As a young nephrologist just out of med school she competed in the Penticton Ironman triathlon competition. That may not involve exertion at high altitude, but with a long distance swim and bike ride followed by a 42 kilometre run, it’s certainly more than a Sunday morning jog in the park.
Suneet grew up in Vancouver and after undergraduate studies at SFU, attended medical school in Montreal at McGill. She received her nephrology training at the University of Calgary and at UBC before becoming a staff nephrologist at Vancouver General Hospital in 2000.
She says she chose nephrology because she found it scientifically interesting and because of the wide range of patient conditions requiring care – offering an “intellectual challenge.” She says she feels “privileged” by the long-term relationships she has with her patients and the connection she feels with them.
Suneet is head of the PD program at VGH and the director of undergraduate nephrology education at UBC. She has been on numerous Royal College committees and is currently the exam board chair for nephrology. She is married and has two step-children in their 20s.
When she’s not climbing at high altitudes, Suneet enjoys trekking through the forests of North Vancouver with her favourite hiking partner - her yellow Labrador Retriever.