NJP (Nice Jewish Person ) Gary Kanner

Each month, The Well highlights an amazing (and eligible!) individual.
This month, we have a conversation with NJP Gary Kanner!


TW: What brought you to Metro Detroit?

GK: I came here for work! After I graduated from medical school back home in West Virginia, I "matched" into a three year residency program in Emergency Medicine in one of the busiest ER's in Detroit. Just about a year ago I packed up my things and my cat and schlepped on up to Michigan to settle into a whole new adventure in a state where I didn't know a single person. Needless to say I've been having a total blast here and made some amazing friends. It's been a great experience to move to such a dynamic place during such a fascinating time. I'll be here for three total years, then most likely move to Alaska for awhile.

TW: You spend your days working as an ER Doctor -- tell us more!

GK: So I spend my days (and many of my nights...) training/working as an Emergency Medicine resident doctor in the ER at Ascension St. John Hospital. It's a wild job and I couldn't imagine doing anything else. We provide emergent health care for critically ill patients coming to our doors for any reason imaginable. In a given shift I may have a patient who has been shot, a patient in active labor, a baby with a cold, a drug overdose, heart attack, or stroke... all going on at the same time. The job is cognitively engaging, emotionally taxing, and always interesting. 

TW: I see from some light Facebook stalking that you're a climber. Have you always been into climbing? How did that passion come about?

GK: Yeah!!! So rock climbing has more or less been my passion for the last ten years. I grew up in southern West Virginia which has world class climbing. My brother would take me out from time to time and set up some ropes. While I always knew I was stoked to climb, I didn't really get into it until I started college at Boston University and immediately started working in the gym and soon after teaching rock climbing classes. I was able to take my passion outdoors and climb all over New England before going on a five month road trip to climb all over the American West just before I went back to West Virginia for medical school. For years now whenever I have free time, I pretty much always spend it living in a tent somewhere or exploring new adventures and new rock.


TW: What's your favorite book and what about it moves you?

GK: His Dark Materials Trilogy (The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass). I'm pretty sure it's a book for children but I read it when I was 22. The books beautifully weave adventure with a complex and beautifully laid out universe all governed by theories of physics (instead of magic). It's super nerdy. I think I'm moved by this book because I see myself as someone who's driven by a thirst for adventure and pursuit of knowledge through experience. 

TW: Tell us about the best adventure you've ever been on!

GK: Oh boy, I don't know, they've all been great! I would have to make it a three way tie between the time I worked in a hospital in Paraguay for a month, the time I spent a week living in a secret cave in West Virginia, and the summer I spent researching bats in Texas. All three experiences were challenging, uncomfortable, and beautiful. It's difficult to pick which life experiences have most shaped a person, but these three stand out to me as really shaping whoever I'm becoming.


TW: Where would you most like to travel to that you haven't visited?

GK: Alaska!!! I'm planning on moving there even though I've never been.

TW: How do you like to give back to the community / others?

GK: Clinical medicine. Part of my initial decision to go into medicine was because I knew I would always have a skill which I could take anywhere in the world and be a valued and helpful resource to anybody there. As I develop into my career I'd like to do community level clinical volunteering as well as one day getting into international disaster relief / refugee medicine.

TW: What's your favorite Jewish holiday and why?

GK: Pasover. I'm all about wine, gefilte fish, and storytelling. That's where I was first introduced to The Well. I joined you all for the Second Night Seder at Matt's place!

TW: Fav Jewish food?

Gefilte fish (see above).


TW: Who do you think is the coolest Jew?

GK: Hmmmmmmm, hard to say. My first thought is Albert Einstein, but I dunno, never met the guy. Growing up I always thought my older brothers were the coolest dudes in the world. How about three way tie between my three older brothers? Is that a cop-out?

TW: If you could ask your pet cat three questions, what would they be?

GK: In the five years I've been living with my cat (his name is Billy Shears) I like to think we're so close that there's not a whole lot I don't already know despite our lack of verbal communication. If I could ask three questions though: 1) How exactly do you view our arrangement/relationship to each other? 2) What are you thinking about when you just sit there looking at the floor for hours? 3) Why you always gotta meow at me when I'm near the fridge? You know I'll always feed you when the time is right!

TW: What accomplishment are you most proud of?

GK: Three way tie between researching bats, training a stubborn hound, and getting through medical school. These are the three things in my life which I considered quitting the most often.


TW: How about a fun fact?

GK: There are more synapses in your brain than there are stars in the universe

TW: What are your three favorite movies?

GK: 1) Coming To America 2) Star Wars (all of them) 3) Wayne's World

TW: When you've had a bad day, what do you do to make yourself feel better?

GK: I really like to plug the drain, sit in the tub, and run the shower. It's like combination bath/shower and it's my happy place. Is that weird?

TW: Finally, would you rather win an Olympic Medal, an Academy Award, or a Nobel Prize?

GK: Definitely a Nobel Prize (I guess in Medicine? I don't really see myself doing much academia...)

TW: Finish this sentence: When I go to The Well...

GK: I have the opportunity to connect with the Jewish community despite being a total outsider with little time or connections to the area. I feel welcomed in this group just as I am, and everyone is open to friendship and fun.