Breathing in the Death Zone: Tales from the Summit of Everest

On May 23, 2019 I was fortunate enough to summit Mount Everest. I was expecting the climb to be physically challenging but was taken aback by the mental aspect of such an undertaking. Even though this had been a childhood dream of mine, I don’t think I would have been able to achieve it without the “emotional training“ which resulted from many trials and tribulations in my work and personal life. The resilience that I developed as a surgeon in residency and as an attending was critical in my success. Additionally, my personal experiences with depression provided me with the tools needed to weather the lows during this trip. At midnight on March 23 when we set of on our summit bid, I focused on my breath not only to get oxygen to my body, but also to cope with the pain from two fresh rib fractures and manage the anxiety of being directly confronted with death. Returning from my trip, I had a renewed perspective on my purpose in life. Integral to that was recognizing the importance of work, life balance and addressing the issue of burnout in healthcare providers.

Event insights:

  • High levels of burnout and mental health illness in healthcare providers
  • Institutional changes to provide support for physicians
  • Strategies for developing resilience
  • Striking the balance of work life balance


Roc Patel
MD Associate Professor, Orthopaedic Surgery
Spine Service Chief
University of Michigan


Illyas Aleem, MD, MSc
Assistant Professor, Orthopaedic Surgery
Assistant Professor, Neurosurgery
Spine Service
University of Michigan


Michigan, USA

Date and Time

2020-06-23 @ 07:30 PM
* All event times are in EST (Toronto)

Recorded Video/Audio Presentation

Recorded Video/Audio Discussion

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