The Zika Page

What we know about the Zika virus is changing every day. This is a page of links to scholarly journals and media, updated between my work as an emergency physician and writer.


Flikr photo by frankieleon,

Zika is a mosquito-borne disease mostly spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes. Also called the Asian Tiger mosquito because of those white markings on the legs.

Canada and Chile don’t have the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes that spread Zika. But what if the Aedes albopictus mosquitoes start spreading it widely too? (;

Map from CDC:

So is Zika spread by mosquito in Canada? Not yet, but it could be in the future:

If you travel to an area with Zika, you must wear mosquito repellent for three weeks after you come home. Aedes aegypti are “sippers” who bite multiple people and can transmit infection. If you don’t take precautions, you are potentially spreading Zika.

Travel advisories: for Zika, from the CDC: (State by state breakdown)

Canada’s general travel advisories:

CDC outline for the Dominican Republic, but has good tips on mosquito repellant that is safe in pregnancy and how to stay safe when you come home:

You already know that Zika can be sexually transmitted:

Hang on, there’s a case in Utah where it seems like a high viral load means it can also be transmitted non-sexually (

Can Zika be spread through tears, saliva, urine, or something else? We trying to figure that out. it’s spreading faster than it should for a purely mosquito-transmitted virus. Viral RNA has been found in mouse tears:

Zika can also be transmitted between mother and fetus, through blood transfusions, and in the laboratory

If you’re pregnant, your fetus may have neurological damage no matter what trimester you got infected. The skull may be normal-sized at birth, but you’d better monitor developmental milestones to make sure the baby’s brain is okay. Preliminary article:

Follow-up article:


What if we’re trying to get pregnant or already pregnant? First of all, don’t travel to endemic areas. Here are more recommendations from the CDC:

So how long should we wait before we try try to conceive? Some recommend six months. Longer is, of course, better. If the man is travelling to an endemic area, it’s safe for him to provide semen before he travels and have the woman do intrauterine insemination.

If you’re in a place where it’s endemic, like El Salvador, they’re recommending two years (!): 

Zika also causes joint problems (arthrogryposis)

Zika attacks adult brains too. It’s linked to Guillain-Barré, which can cause ascending paralysis:

Maybe Zika can affect adults’ memories or cause depression even if it doesn’t paralyze you or hurt your baby: case study only ( A case study means that it happened to only one person. That’s not high quality research. However, it can point out something that needs further research.

How many cases are in Canada? And other Canadian resources:

Spraying for Zika is killing bees. As an environmentalist, I’m so sad about this. Even if you don’t care about the earth, bees account for 30 percent of pollination, and their populations were already devastated by colony collapse disorder. How would you survive a 30 percent drop in food supply?

Zika articles, free until September 30th

If you would like to add a link or information that is based on science, please let me know.


Melissa Yuan-Innes, M.D.

Fantasy time: Fairy Tales Are for White People, By the Light of the Kumquat Tree, Can-Con, and other cool beasts

And now for something completely different. Some of you may know that my first published stories were fantasy and science fiction, for two practical reasons: 1. Speculative fiction pays better than copies-only literary magazines, and 2. I really wanted to escape school through my imagination. Especially once I was a red-eyed resident ploughing through family and emergency medicine.

Now, medicine (and, to a much lesser extent, medical and mystery writings) pay a good chunk of the bills. But I still nurture a love for mind-blowing fantasy and made-you-think-and-feel science fiction.

Fairy taleS are for white people Galen Dara correct

When I attended Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s fantasy workshop, she asked for–nay, demanded–that we write a story based on food. She didn’t care what kind of fantasy story it was, but she had to be able to see, smell, and taste the food. My mind leapfrogged to Jacques Wong and Ho Ho BBQ, whom I’d first met in Gourmet Magazine through this wonderful article by Francis Lam.

Let’s face it. When rich people are throwing down hundreds of dollars on restaurant meals, they’re not usually driving out to Scarborough’s strip malls and seeking out the cheap Chinese joints.

We stumbled upon Ho Ho BBQ in real life, after visiting my grandmother. Jacques gave my son some free pork skin and beamed while Max ate it. You could not get better food or more heart at any three star Michelin restaurant.

So first I wrote the title, “Fairy Tales Are for White People.” Then I started writing about a fairy godfather.

Climbing up the basement stairs with a duck carcass, holding the slippery neck far enough away from his body so that his knees didn’t clank into the dangling legs, Trenton Lo caught his first glimpse of the fairy godfather.

Fairy Tales Twitter illo Screenshot 2016-06-07 19.55.56

Fireside Magazine immediately accepted “Fairy Tales Are for White People,” and Galen Dara made the best art. Gorgeous and capturing the spirit of family and beauty and perseverance. I adore it. Read it here and enjoy the full art! Feel free to support Fireside Magazine, which makes a point of paying both writers and artists properly and promptly.

Fairy Tales Twitter OMG Screenshot 2016-06-07 19.57.09 Fairy Tales Twitter vibrant cropped Screenshot 2016-09-05 04.58.42 copy

Everyone loved “Fairy Tales Are for White People.” I’m not trying to brag; it’s just something that happens once in a while. A story falls down from the sky, almost fully-formed, and it’s a story that immediately resonates with readers of different ages and backgrounds.

It’s also available as a standalone complete story here, on all platforms. I’ve added an author’s essay about the genesis of the story, the workshop with Kris, the yumminess of Ho Ho BBQ in real life.

Fairy tales Twitter enjoyed Screenshot 2016-09-05 18.05.59

The last one is rated R, but I do love it.

Fairy Tales fucking hell cropped Screenshot 2016-09-05 18.04.13 copy

Next, I went to LA for the Roswell Awards this year again, as I mentioned here. (And by the way, Rico is committed to Humans ‘n’ Hot Dogs, but he booked a film in August, so he didn’t have a chance to record it yet, but he will! Our crowdfunding campaign is still alive!)

My new writer/ER doctor friend, John Burley, flew down to meet me. He thought I was nuts for staying at an airbnb, but look at the back yard I shared. We sat and talked and he pulled kumquats off the tree. I don’t know if I’ve ever tried kumquats before, let alone eaten them straight from the tree, rind and all. The first time, I made a hideous face, but I guess it’s like shots, you get used to them.

2016-05-24 17.12.36

Enchanted Conversations was taking submissions for their Midsummer issue. I decided to weave a small, poetic tale based on this setting, and BOOM! They published “By the Light of the Kumquat Tree” here. Make sure you read the other luminaries as well. I always wanted to get published in this fairy tale magazine, so yay!

Finally, I’m heading off to Can-Con this weekend. I’m on two panels.

  1. Rewriting Fairy Tales, with Dominik Parisien, Fanny Darling, Charles de Lint, K.V. Johansen, Kelsi Morris, Melissa Yuan-Innes. Look at me, with Charles de Lint! Woo hoo! I’m sure I’ll adore the other panelists as well.
  2. SARS, Ebola and Zika, the last Decade of Outbreaks, with Agnes Cadieux, Dr. Dylan Blaquiere, Dr. Anatoly Belilovski, Dr. Melissa Yuan-Innes, Dr. Alison Sinclair, Pippa Wysong (m). It’s 50 percent doctors and 50 percent non-doctors! Party on!

Oh, and thanks for all the comments on the Italian School for Assassins cover. Behold, the final version. It’s also available for sale on all e-book platforms here! (The print version will come in 2017.)

Italian School for Assassins 2016 Melissa_Yi_6_v4_2_1_1

Which cover? The Italian School for Assassins, revisited.

AssassinsMelissa_Yi_6_fWhich one grabs you?

Which one shouts mystery, fun, romance, Italy, and badass Asian Canadian heroine to you?

Yes, I am revamping my covers with a terrific new graphic designer, Lisa.

I’m looking for as many diverse comments as possible, so I usually try not to say too much, but in case you were wondering…

Jessica votes for the orange. “I would read that,” she said. Twice.

Matt votes for green. He thinks it conveys the mystery better, because the orange could be a fantasy instead of a mystery/romance.

Either one is an improvement on the previous cover, but please cast your ballot!

I’m doing something different by posting it on my blog. Normally, I go directly to Facebook, because their algorithms favour a direct post. Let’s see if we can beat their algorithm! Yay!

It’s already available for sale as an e-book here. It’s on sale for $2.99 instead of the usual $5.99, so grab it now!

The print version is coming…


I love the Killer School mysteries. They’re a hilarious antidote to the finger-biting realism of the Hope Sze medical mysteries. Fingers crossed that new covers mean more people will discover V and Dario, fighting crime and falling in love around the world!

Human Remains. The First Chapter.

At my request, my husband gave me Mighty Ugly, this cool book by Kim Werker. I was struck by the idea of Jasika Nicole and other artists’ challenges to make art *and post it* every day for 30 days. No matter what. It didn’t have to be good. It just had to be done.

It suddenly occurred to me that I could do this.

I could post excerpts from my newest novel, Human Remains.

I have been working on this book for what feels like aeons. In fact, I came across a note on my writing spreadsheet, saying “restarted Human Remains,” which means I’ve been slogging away for over a year on it. I can’t tell you how slow this is for me. I stopped and wrote a back pain book in the meantime.

I have over 158,000 words on it to date. The problem was, I kept changing the plot, the murderer, and the location. (Don’t worry, Hope Sze is still the main character. That, I didn’t change.)

All this means, I’m about twelve times as slow and unproductive as most of my writing friends. It’s like they’re running marathons and I’m like, “Um. Don’t mind me. I’m going to stretch over here, and maybe in a year or three, I’ll…walk.”

jasika roswell IMG_7372

Fun fact: Jasika and I have appeared on a Hollywood stage together twice for the Roswell Awards. Here she’s wearing grey and is looking adorable.

Now, art is something easy to post online. You can grasp it in a glance. Writing, not so much.

I also had conversations like this at the hospital:

Kat: So. Are you writing your new Hope book?

Me: Yes. Of course.

Kat: So when’s it coming out? I can’t wait to find out what’s happening with the two guys.

Me: Did you read the last book? I told you what was happening with the two guys.

Kat: She can’t do that forever. It doesn’t work for the guys!

Anyhoo…if I posted excerpts from my book, it would show my fans that I was, indeed, writing, instead of teaching myself hip hop on my days away from the ER (well, doing a little bit of that, too).

It didn’t have to be good.

In fact, I could issue a warning that this was raw, unformed clay.

“Rejection is like chicken. It’s either yummy or yucky. Depends how you cook it….Just ask.” —Jia Jiang, @17:56


by Melissa Yi

Chapter 1

I nudged into a free parking space in front of a deserted park and opened my car door, squinting at the street lamps glowing in the night sky. Snow fluttered toward me, dotting my forehead. An ambulance siren wailed faintly in my ears, since I was only one giant, tree-lined block away from the Ottawa Hospital and the Children’s Hospital. Frosty air seared my nostrils and chilled my arms despite the bright blue parka my parents had bought for me.

I didn’t care. Inside, I felt as dead as the corpses that haunted me.

My phone buzzed with a text from Ryan.

Where are you?

For a second, I hesitated. There are only a few people in the world who still make me feel something, and one of them was texting me right now. I’d turned off the ringer so my mother couldn’t tell me that fresh pineapple was on sale at TNT.

I climbed back in the Ford Focus and slammed the door to text him back without the snow wrecking my brand new iPhone. I told you. I’m going to check out the stem cell lab.

I hesitated. I sounded flat. But how was that a change from the past month? If Ryan couldn’t take it, so be it. I pressed send.

My breath fogged up the interior of the car. It wasn’t so cold that it immediately turned to frost, even though it was mid-December in Canada’s capital. Another sign of climate change or, as I preferred to think of it, the upcoming apocalypse.

My phone buzzed again. Are you on Lynda Lane?

That raised a faint smile out of me. Ryan Wu knew me so well, or at least he used to know the old Hope Sze, the pre-hostage-taking Hope. Parking costs $13 a day, so while the sun shines and the clinics are open, everyone fights over the free spots on Lynda Lane, a small road south of Smythe Rd. And yet…No. The police set up a R.I.D.E. program there. Honestly, I know they want to catch drunk drivers, especially around Christmas, but 9 p.m. ridiculously early, no? And who parties around the hospitals? To be fair, this section of Smythe Road is also home to Ottawa University, but lots of students don’t even have cars. I had to battle my way through that mess just to look an officer in the eye and say, “No, sir, I didn’t drink anything but water today.” I texted, I took a right. You know, around the park?

Oh, you’re on Billings. Wait for me. I’ll walk with you.

Ryan was driving around Ottawa on a Sunday evening so that he could walk to the lab with me? He probably wouldn’t even be let inside. Well, I couldn’t blame him for playing bodyguard, although if I’d known he was coming, I would’ve worn my contact lenses instead of my glasses.

I watched the fog build up on my windshield. Once upon a time, Ryan and I would make out for hours in his car. Once we were in a mall parking lot and the police came and rapped on the door and asked if we were okay, and I was so embarrassed that I wouldn’t look at the cop. It felt like a lifetime ago.

If I was the one looking for Ryan, I would’ve blundered around in the growing darkness, cursing and stumbling on the gravel shoulder, trying to figure out which dark car held my boyfriend. But Ryan was an engineer and I was the doctor doing my residency in family medicine. Things that I found impossible, he found easy, and vice versa.

Just to make it easier for him, though, I flicked on my lights.

A car drew smoothly into a space on the opposite side of the road, but it was too dark for me to figure out the car’s colour, except that it was dark, so it could’ve been Ryan’s black Nissan Sentra.

The driver who popped open the driver’s door was a man who moved like Ryan, with a long and easy stride. He looked about the right height too, which is five foot ten. But his head was covered by a toque, his body was obscured by a black parka, and he was snapping a leash on a black dog with brown markings at the eyes and mouth.

Ryan doesn’t have a dog. His parents, like a lot of Chinese immigrants, don’t care for canines. Dogs bark, they pee, they poop, they make for expensive vet bills. My dad likes dogs, but my mom fits the stereotype better, so we’ve never had one, either.

I locked my doors and watched the pair cross the road toward me, presumably heading to the park nestled between me and the hospitals. The man shielded his eyes from my headlights, shadowing his face, and my eyes dropped to the dog. Maybe I should call it a puppy, because it seemed to have oversized paws and kept rushing all around instead of walking side to side. I smiled a bit despite myself. Puppies are funny, at least from a distance.

The closer the guy got, though, the more he seemed to move like Ryan. Those hips. That runner’s stride. I twisted in my seat, my heart thumping in my chest. Were there more than two guys in the world who could give me supraventricular tachycardia from ten feet away?

I wished it wasn’t so dark. Winter solstice was coming, and I’m always locked inside a hospital, so it seems like it’s dark when I get in the hospital and it’s dark when I leave. That’s one reason I had to ditch Montreal, why Tucker said—

My gloved hands clenched on the steering wheel.


I forced myself to breathe very slowly, in and out. I’ve gone to therapy now, you see. Sort of mandatory for PTSD people like me. I’m supposed to focus on what’s happening here and now instead of getting bound up in traumatic past events involving John Tucker. Seeeeeeee the snowflakes dissolving as they hit my windshield. Feeeeeeeeel the cool air on my face. Heeeeeear the guy and his dog’s footsteps crunching on the gravel shoulder…

The guy stopped in front of my car and raised his hand in greeting.

Version 2The dog jumped in the air on its back legs. The guy leaned over and get the dog to calm down. Instead, the dog pounced on the guy’s legs with its muddy paws, but the guy just laughed as he lifted the paws off his thighs. I still thought it was a puppy, but not as small as I’d first thought.

I unlocked the door and popped it open. “Ryan?” I said through the crack, over the screeching protest of my car alarm, warning me that I’d left my headlights on.

“Hope,” he said, in his low voice, while the puppy danced around him.

This wasn’t what I was expecting. At all. I don’t like surprises, ever since my hostage-taking on 14/11. The dog was barking at me now. Yapping at me, really. Short, sharp barks, but it was wagging its tail, and it gave me something to look at besides goggling at Ryan’s sharp-planed face and meeting his worried eyes.

I turned off the lights and slammed the door shut, locking it, which made the puppy bark some more, and try to jump up o
n me. She was black, with floppy ears, except brown apostrophe-like markings around her eyes and chin and more brown on her underside.

Ryan was watching me. He did that a lot now. Since 14/11. And maybe before then, if I were honest.

I wanted to hug Ryan and hit him at the same time. Instead, I said, “Who’s this monster?”

Ryan grinned at me. “Her name’s Roxy. I’m dog-sitting. My friend Rachel has a foster dog, so she’s making us all take turns walking and dog-sitting.”

Rachel. He never talked about anyone named Rachel before. And wasn’t that too cute for words—Ryan and Rachel and a puppy named Roxy. They all matched.

I tried to swallow down the acid and breeeeeeathe. Ryan was here with meeeeeee right now.

Plus, it’s harder to hiss with jealousy when a puppy barks, sneezes, and then barks some more.

I started to put my hand down to pet her head, and Ryan said, “You’re supposed to let her sniff you and decide if she wants to let you touch her first.”

I pulled off my mitten and let my hand hang where she could reach it. She started licking the back of my hand with her warm, wet tongue. I laughed despite myself, and Ryan’s teeth lit up the gloom as he laughed, too. “That’s the first thing she did to me, too. I thought she’d cheer you up.”

“How old is she?”

“She’ll be a year next month. She’s a Rottweiler shepherd.”

“A Rottweiler?” I snatched my hand away from her tongue. Roxy wagged her long, elegantly plumed black tail at me and woofed.

“Yeah. I looked it up. They were originally working and family dogs. They just have a bad rep. And Roxy’s cool. I wouldn’t have brought her otherwise.”

I touched the silky fur on her ears. She nudged her head against my hand, searching for more rubs. I laughed, and so did Ryan. He and I leaned together to pet her, only to bump heads hard enough that I said “Ow!”

We laughed again, me a little wryly, while I rubbed my head and Roxy whuffed.

Ryan touched my forehead with his bare fingertips. “You okay?”

I nodded. “You?”

He smiled, and I blushed, even which embarrassed me, so I concentrated on Roxy until his fingertips lifted away from my skin.

Our my hands bumped into each other again in the fur between Roxy’s ears.

Ryan’s eyes turned serious, watching me even as his body pressed forward. He was going to kiss me.

I felt numb, and not just because my naked hand was starting to cool off between Roxy-licks and the chill evening air.

Ryan’s head tipped toward me, still reading my eyes.

At the last second, he kissed the tip of my nose, just once, and lightly, like an exclamation point.

I laughed. My heat started beating again.

Ryan dropped back to pet Roxy, smiling a little.

I petted Roxy, too. “Um, I’m supposed to go to the lab. Get the lay of the land so I don’t mess up on my first day.” I was leaving nothing to chance anymore. I used to run in at the last second (okay, late by a few minutes); now I had to suss out every new environment to minimize the terrorists in every corner.

But first I grabbed Ryan’s face—one hand on each cheek, just like Hollywood—and kissed him hard, on his warm, full lips. If I died in the next five minutes, I wanted to go out knowing that I’d kissed one of the guys I loved.

Ryan kissed me back so hard and so long that Roxy started trying to edge between us. She sat down, thumping her tail solidly on the gravel shoulder.

We both laughed. I said, against his chest, “How long are you keeping this dog?”

“Until Rachel picks her up tonight. But I kind of like her.” Ryan patted Roxy’s head, and I admitted, “I like her, too.”

Then I shrugged and pointed north, at the H of the Ottawa Hospital’s Central Campus and started walking north, into the park.

Parks are creepy at night. The empty swings. The blue plastic slide that could be hiding a marijuana stash, if not a guy with a knife. So I was kind of relieved when Roxy barked, and Ryan fell into place beside me, our boots crunching together. He pointed east. “Don’t you want to take the road?”

I shook my head. Even here, through the meagre screen of trees bordering Lynda Lane, the police cruiser’s blue headlights flashed at me in their bid to Reduce Impaired Driving Everywhere. There’s no proper sidewalk on the road, just cars wedged onto the shoulders and a ditch, and those trees.

I tried to avoid people as much as possible now. I’d rather walk past the empty climbing wall and kid-free jungle gym.

“This isn’t really a park, Hope. It’s okay during the summer because enough other people use it that they cut the grass. But in the winter time, it’s not a trail.”

“You can take the road,” I said, and when he frowned at me, I rubbed my eyes and tried to soften my tone. “I mean, if I get stuck, I’ll back track to the road. I’m not in a rush.”

Ryan sighed. But instead of arguing, he and Roxy followed me into the park.

Another siren whooped in the distance, setting my teeth on edge. I remembered being a medical student, loving the sound of ambulances bringing me traumas and other fun cases to play with, which seemed like forever ago, but had been…last year. God.

Roxy drifted from side to side, testing the limits of her leash, before she sniffed a lump of snow with great interest. I glanced left, where some good-sized houses sat with their drapes drawn, maybe half a kilometre away. One of them had a TV screen flickering behind some cheap horizontal blinds.

My boots sank in the old, overgrown, dead grass and the few centimetres of snow that had accumulated on the ground. For some reason, snow that melts instantly on pavement will gather on any grassy surface and threaten to trap me. We only had to walk a kilometre—not exactly conquering the North Pole—but I paused at the foot of a half-frozen, rutted pond now blocking our path.

Clearly, municipal money didn’t stretch to maintaining off-road paths in the off-season. I didn’t want to tromp around the lab with half frozen, muddy feet.

I turned to admit defeat to Ryan, who was already lifting his eyebrows at me but thankfully not opening his mouth to say “I told you so,” when Roxy broke away from him, jerking her leash out of his hand.

Ryan swore.

roxy snow IMG_6926Roxy barrelled east, toward the Lynda Lane.

Towards traffic. And drivers that might not see a black dog at night.

We both ran toward her, screaming, “Roxy! Roxy!”

I skidded on the snow. My right ankle turned over, and I wobbled, a pain knifing through my lateral ankle.

Ryan spun around to catch me, but I was already righting myself and yelling, “Get Roxy!”

He broke into a sprint. He’s a runner, and even after I hurried after him, yelling at our borrowed dog, limping, teeth gritted—it was obviously a sprain instead of a break—I marvelled at the way Ryan cut through the row of skinny trees, never missing a step, despite the darkness and the uneven, muddy, snowy ground. At least the moon and the street lamps lit up the snow.

A few minutes later, I cut into the trees, stumbling after Ryan. Shadows fell on me, but so did the street lamps, so I concentrated on tracking Ryan, who was had almost caught up to Roxy as she wagged her tail, picking her way into the ditch bordering Lynda Lane.

Ryan scooped up her leash, but his body stiffened so abruptly, I rushed to his side, gasping, “What?” as cars whooshed on the road a few feet above us.

He pointed at Roxy.

She was sniffing something that looked awfully like a dead human body.

A body with a black bag over its head.

Human Remains child cover 6x9 72

Not ready for order. But if you want more, I’ll be sending it out to my newsletter subscribers first!

CBC Picks Stockholm Syndrome as One of the Best Crime Novels of the Season, Free Unfeeling Doctor Audio Book, and Jewish Noir Nominated for Anthony Award


Click to buy.

First the most jaw-dropping news, to me. CBC Radio picked STOCKHOLM SYNDROME as one of their best crime books of the season.
Yup, for summer 2016, Dr. P.K. Rangachari, mystery novel enthusiast and professor in the faculty of medicine at McMaster University, told Shelagh Rogers, the mystery panel, The Next Chapter audience, and basically the planet that they should read my thriller about a hostage-taking on the obstetrics ward, where Dr. Hope Sze has to deliver a baby and get everyone out alive.
So why do I pair this news with a picture of me and Max in a helmet? Well, zip lining is not a bad metaphor for writing.
IMG_7485“What happened to you?” said a nurse last week, pointing at a purple and yellow bruise on my arm, just beneath my scrub sleeve.
I glanced at it and smiled fondly. “Oh. I went zip lining with my son’s grade four class.”

I’d gone zip lining before, in Costa Rica. Truthfully, my favourite part was climbing up the ladder and the guide saying to my husband, “Is this your wife?” and giving me an approving look. I also loved the toucan in the trees that had another guide yelling, “Toucan! Toucan!” and pointing, so that an oblivious tourist forgot to brake and crashed into the trees.
My least favourite part was that this was part of a possible horse riding/mountain hiking combination package, and another tourist complained, loudly, “I can’t believe they have horse manure! They should put up signs to warn us!”

That’s writing at first. Fun. Lots of adrenaline. Highs and lows. Can be expensive if you throw money into it. Surrounded by people who don’t want to do the work, crave easy success, and are utterly outraged they’re surrounded by feces.
IMG_7497Zip lining at Arbraska was harder. First of all, because safety regulations are so much stricter in Canada, we had to clip on carabiners all the time, even climbing up a ladder. There were fewer guides, since labour costs more and at least two schools had taken over the camp. And I was trying to keep an eye on a bunch of ten-year-olds, while not just pleasantly zipping from station to station, but also swinging on logs on chains, crossing rope bridges, crawling through tunnels, and so forth.
That’s what writing is like now. I’m conscious of how I’ve had to climb up one foot at a time. How, if I decided to take a leap, I have a whole family I’d potentially have to catch. But I’m also taking some risks and reaping some rewards.

CBC Next Chapter Stockholm Syndrome cropped Screenshot 2016-06-20 13.36.27 copy

Click to buy.

Click to buy.

I told you the big one: I’ve yearned for an interview with Shelagh Rogers ever since I was living in a windowless, TV, and Internet-free basement in my first year of Arts & Science at McMaster University. CBC Radio saved my brain. So, okay, I haven’t gotten an official interview yet. But my name has now appeared on her show, Melissa Yi (Canada) alongside Michael Robotham (Australia), Andrew Taylor (Britain), Sally Andrew (South Africa), L.S. Hilton (Britain), Steve Burrows (Canada), Naomi Hirahara (USA), Esmahan Aykol (Germany & Turkey), Belinda Bauer (England & South Africa), Sally Andrew (South Africa), Barbara Nadel (England), Dan Fesperman (USA), Craig Johnson (USA), Val MacDermid (Scotland), Adrian McKinty (Ireland).
I mention everyone’s countries because Shelagh asked if any of us were Canadian, and I was curious enough to look up the answer: only two of us. We are truly competing internationally, folks, when the CBC selects a few books as the best of 2016, and only 14 percent are homegrown. I’m not complaining, but nowadays, when you want to get noticed, you have to be the best in the world.

If you listen to the interview, STOCKHOLM SYNDROME is at 11:42.
So that’s me climbing to the eagle’s nest and zipping my way down, screaming in victory.

In celebration, all Hope e-books are now on sale. CODE BLUES is only $2.99 (50% off) and the other books are $3.99 (33% off) for a limited time only.

Code Blues EBOOK cover 2015 derringer kris storybundleNotorious POD SHOE front 5x8 brighter 2016-300TerminallyJUTOH ebook cover 2014
Italian Assassins cover POD front-FINAL with YI and skullyoga cover NEW octavia ganesha 6x9 with SKULLAlready read the Hope books? Meet Octavia Ling, Ottawa public servant by day, who celebrates her birthday by trying out THE ITALIAN SCHOOL FOR ASSASSINS. When her roommate gets murdered, assassin school turns all too real. On sale for 99 cents (a whopping 84% off) for a super-short time!
Octavia’s adventures continue in THE GOA YOGA SCHOOL OF SLAYERS, which Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine reviewer Steve Steinbeck called “a lot of fun,” at the cut-throat price of $2.99 (50% off)! (My yoga killer short story, “Om,” was published in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, and I had to keep playing with the idea of yoga murderers. I love Octavia and her squeeze, Dario, and India is a fascinating country. As Shashi Tharoor points out, “Everything is recycled in India, even dreams.”)

Today only, use the code 50JUN at Kobo. You’ll get 50 percent off any or all of my books, on top of these prices, so you could pick up THE ITALIAN SCHOOL FOR ASSASSINS for less than 50 cents plus tax. Cheaper and healthier than a lead-filled dollar store necklace!

Jewish noir cover

Who’s going to win an Anthony? Jewish Noir (we hope)!

E-book and print available. Audio coming soon!

Audio version new on Audible for only $6.95! Audio and eBook bundle on Gumroad for $8.99!

Other happy news: JEWISH NOIR was nominated for an Anthony Award, considered one of the most prestigious awards in mystery fiction!
And…THE MOST UNFEELING DOCTOR IN THE WORLD AND OTHER TRUE TALES FROM THE EMERGENCY ROOM is now available as an audio book on Audible, narrated by The Review editor Louise Sproule and edited by Jean Sarrazin of I’m giving away a free copy to one of you lovelies, so hit me up online or offline!
I never pretend everything is fake-perfect, so I must assure you that I still see feces all the time, most recently in a toddler’s bathing suit, and of course in the ER or or the hospital wards. But I keep climbing, baby. I keep climbing.

I could win an award tonight for The Medical Post, but I’m working at the hospital instead. You’re welcome.

Hey! I was nominated for ‘Best regularly featured column’ at the 62nd Canadian Business Media Awards for my work at The Medical Post!

Photo on 2016-06-05 at 11.13 AM #4

Anastasia sometimes likes to change inside the locker at swimming. In other good news, our kids may pass their swimming lessons (Whale & Level 7). W00T!

I fist-punched the air. Until I got this, I didn’t consciously realize that my non-fiction was the one kind of writing I did consistently that wasn’t recognized by awards. The Most Unfeeling Doctor in the World did get named to the Ultimate Reading List for Nurses, and it sold a lot of copies, but awards? Awards for me? Yaaaaaaay!

Also slightly unreal, since I feel like everyone else is talking Very Seriously About Life And Death in their columns, and I’m like, Whut.

I didn’t even know this was a thing, but I looked it up, and the Medical Post is killing the shortlist. IMG_1917Professional Magazine the Year, Best News Coverage, Best One-of-a-Kind Article (two out of seven articles, and I contributed to one of them, “Medical misconceptions”—I wrote a quick piece called “I’m not an old, white man”), Best Professional Article, and Best Regularly Featured Department or Column. The last one’s my baby, and competition is stiff. Not only are there nine different contenders (including Richard Ouzounian, whom I used to listen to on CBC Radio’s “Say It With Music”), but again, two of us are from the Medical Post.

I considered going to the awards ceremony tonight, but I’m the hospitalist at the Glengarry, starting today, so it would be hard to get coverage as I drive to Toronto and back.

So good luck to all the nominees! I’ll be thinking of you tonight.

humans hot dogs cover audio 3 inAlso, I must thank our phenomenal friends who are crowdfunding Rico Anderson’s reading of “Humans ‘n’ Hot Dogs,” my Roswell Award finalist short story. The net tally so far is $255.04 U.S. and $148 Canadian. We love you! Thank you for the support from Canada, the U.S., England, and Switzerland. Rico’s jonesing for us to meet our stretch goal of $500-$600, so if anyone wants to throw a bit more money in, maybe he’ll do a Snoopy Dance for you.

Either way, much gratitude today. xoxoxoxoxo

Bringing Humans ‘n’ Hot Dogs to Life

Meet Rico.rico head shot black

Rico E. Anderson, to be precise. rico star trek picstitch

Rico is an award-winning actor who starred as Boras in Star Trek: Renegades, directed by Tim Russ. He appeared in Criminal Minds, Modern Family, Young & Hungry, and Bones, and will be on The Fosters in June.

He lit up the stage as Oedipus and Malcolm X. He got his first big break in the 2005 Academy Award Winning short film, “Mighty Times: The Children’s March.”

You medical types may recognize him fresh off Grey’s Anatomyrico mcstabby 13256528_10209840858725007_1403981302899658875_n

However, Rico’s most thrilling appearance to date was at the 2016 Roswell Awards, when he read my short story, “Humans ’n’ Hot Dogs.”

I kid, I kid. Well, Rico did read my story. He was hilarious. He adopted various personae, including a Russian accent for the homeless man. People laughed the whole way through. Like, almost continuously. Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to record audio or video, so that performance is now locked in the audience’s memories and otherwise lost in the ether.

After the ceremony, Rosalind Helfand, the Roswell director, told me that the judges were “absolutely gleeful” after reading my story. One judge, Steven Calcote, applauded when he met me and said, “Yay! ‘Humans ’n’ Hot Dogs.’” Later, he took my hand and said, “Promise me you’ll keep on writing.” Which felt good, since I’ve been casting about, trying to write the next Hope Sze medical mystery.

rico and me on stage roswell IMG_7377Later, I was having drinks with Rico, praising his performance, and I thought, Maybe I shouldn’t let this go. We weren’t allowed to record his performance at the Roswell Awards. But what if he recorded it later and we released it as an audio book?

This is a risky proposition. I’m not a big name, so sales are not guaranteed. You can’t charge buyers much for a recording of a short story. And Rico would have to be paid. The man is one of those rarities, a full-time Hollywood actor who doesn’t have a day job. (Whenever he says this, he starts knocking on wood, and on his head.)

But Rico wants to do this. He told me, “I’m in.” Still, I know this will take time for him, not only to record, but to discuss my “vision.” I said he could direct himself, but as a professional, he wants to make sure the final product is what I envisaged. Plus there’s sound editing and other things that take time and expertise.

This is where you, the reader, come in.

I’ve never done a real crowdfunding campaign, but I’m going to try it now and see if we can bring Humans ’n’ Hot Dogs to life.

Any donation: big thanks and a picture of Rico shirtless. Goal: unlocked! See below.

Wiener ($5): an advance e-book copy of Humans ’n’ Hot Dogs and enormous thanks from Rico and me.

Pepperoni ($10): an advance deluxe e-book copy of Humans ’n’ Hot Dogs, including cartoons, inside tips on how to how to network in Los Angeles, and behind-the-scenes stories from Sci-Fest LA, Caltech, and Buzzfeed.

humans hot dogs cover audio 3 inBangers ($20): deluxe e-book and you’ll be the first to hear the audio book, before it’s uploaded to Audible, iTunes, and other retailers. Humans ’n’ Hot Dogs all the way!

Chorizo ($25): now we’re cooking. Deluxe e-book, audio book, and line producer credit in the book.

Andouille ($30): now we’re sizzling. All the previous rewards, co-producer credit in the book, plus an audio copy of my most popular book, The Most Unfeeling Doctor in the World and Other True Tales From the Emergency Room

Bratwurst ($50): smells absolutely delicious in here. Must be your generosity. Includes all of the above, with associate producer credit in the book

Mortadella ($100): every single previous reward, with executive producer credit in the book, and a copy of the print book, shipped anywhere in the world for free. Yes, a real, live, print book that you can pass on to future generations, along with Rico’s stunning rendition of my oeuvre.

Yes! We have our first donation, which unlocks a behind-the-scenes photo from Grey's Anatomy. Hello.

Yes! We have our first donation, which unlocks a behind-the-scenes photo from Grey’s Anatomy. Hello.

If you don’t want producer credit, that’s cool. No pressure.

Minimum Goal: $250. Stretch goal: $600.

rico and me with baby IMG_7384For now, I’m staying away from Kickstarter and other crowdfunding sites, because it looks like 10 percent of the money will go to fees. PayPal alone eats a fair amount of the donation—up to 5 percent plus a flat rate fee—but seems the lesser of the evils, so please send PayPal donations to olobooks [at] gmail [dot] com. I accept cash and cheques (Canadian or U.S., since Rico is American and we’ve got Canadian “dollarettes” right now). Internet banking saves on fees and should also go to olobooks [at] gmail [dot] com. I should even be able to accept credit cards or Interac if you contact me privately through that address.

If you can’t donate, I also appreciate any likes and shares and sparkly comments. I’m not going to spam you. It’s just that, if you react to this post, it ranks higher in Facebook’s algorithm.

Thanks for reading this. I think it’s very cool that nowadays, with only a few dollars, we can make a difference and support the arts.

“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”Aesop

“No one has the power to shatter your dreams unless you give it to them.”Maeve Greyson

Los Angeles vs. New York Acting Classes

I was early for my plane! Please applaud, as I can’t remember the last time that happened!

Then I took the wrong bus from LAX and ended up going almost all the way to UCLA. On the upside, I found a new, free museum, the Hammer, with graffiti and swivel top chairs. I couldn’t take proper picture of them, but they were amusing.IMG_7343 IMG_7339


Some building that looked like a mountainous brain/melting sundae.

On the downside, I was slightly late for my Meetup acting class with Peter Valentino at 2 p.m., but all it meant that I didn’t really know what I was doing when we started off with an improv exercise called, “Yes, and…” You take turns talking, and adding and building on whatever the previous person said. Bryce ended up telling me I was a drug addict and alcoholic in our scene. I said, “Yes, and you must be mistaking me for somebody else,” which turns out against the rules. You’re not allowed to contradict the other person. Who knew?

Peter handed me a binder full of female-female scripts, and I got to choose which script to do with a funny, charming actor named Tina, which was awesome. I liked the comedy of Bridesmaids, but ended up choosing Sense and Sensibility, to challenge us. Peter advised us to lower our voices and stop declaiming, because he was teaching for film, not theatre. He wanted us to add more emotion, because the language is formal, but the emotions are universal. It was harder than I thought.


Want to buy an ancient rickshaw? C’mon down!

Later, I acted with a French former dancer/choreographer named Christine, a scene where she had a crush on a radio DJ, but I was the sister who had slept with him. Peter asked me to make it more sexual, so I loosened up my body language and played with my hair. “Oh, Melissa!” called one of the actors watching.

I enjoyed watching the other actors, especially when they showed off their versatility. Emmanuel Fortune played Jerry Seinfeld, then an affectionate boyfriend, then a businessman. Joe Allyn Fick and Bryce Harrison swapped roles in one scene, which I’d secretly wanted them to do, and I learned from how they interpreted and re-interpreted their roles. Cade called himself a screenwriter instead of an actor, but he definitely held his own. I wanted to get to know Tina better, both as an actor and as a person, but she left early.

Peter and I talked afterward, practicing reading my short story, “Because” and playing “Yes, and…” He said he could tell I was intelligent (and that was before I’d mentioned I was a doctor!), so we could work on bringing up my emotion. I already have the imagination, and I take direction well.

It was funny, because I’ve only ever worked with one other acting teacher, but I saw a difference between the two coasts in my sample size of two. I don’t know if it’s an East Coast/West Coast thing, but


Lenin hangs out on La Brea

NYC: cold reading with three pairs doing one run-through each. At the end, the theatre had to vote on their favourite actor. Guess who got zero votes?

LA: everyone acted several times. No votes. Peter said, “I build a collaborative environment. Competition will happen on its own, especially between actors of the same sex.”

NYC: free the first time, but then it was $300 per month or $75 per class (4.5 hour weekly class)

LA: $10 first class, $30 afterward (3 h class)

NYC: language is king. Don’t change a word of the script or Edward Albee’s ghost will swoop down to haunt you.

LA: Peter: did you add the F word in there?

Bryce: Yeah. It helped me get more into the role.

NYC: project your voice to the back of the theatre. Otherwise, no one can hear you.

LA: film is life. Look at the person you’re talking to, and lower your volume.

NYC: hustle or die

LA: busy but a more relaxed vibe. They were happy that I was a finalist for the Roswell award and surprised that I wasn’t an actor who’d moved here (“But you’re so good!” said Bryce). Joe and Emmanuel are coming to the ceremony, along with me and John and Kevin. (I know, I’m surrounded by guys. Just worked out that way.)

I should add that people in NYC are also surprisingly friendly, but you know they’re constantly working. Elizabeth Gilbert said that NYC can be summed up as ACHIEVE and LA is SUCCEED. I always thought I was more NYC, but LA is growing on me.

I feel good in art towns with tons to do every day and night. It’s just too bad that I’m drawn to some of the most expensive places on earth.

At 8 p.m., I headed to the Acme theatre for Program A of Sci-Fest LA. David Dean Bottrell greeted me at the door. I recognized Baby, the monster hanging over the red carpet. I recognized two more actors and the theatre owner. It’s amazing how fast you can start building a community—not that I’m suddenly BFF with a monster costume, but it’s cool. I’ll talk more about the Sci-Fest LA tomorrow. I’m about to head down for Program B!

The Roswell Award vs. Max’s birthday parties

roswell simon and me 11393247_10206278702662184_1238016676653303411_n (1)

Simon Kassianides (formerly of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and a James Bond villain in Quantum of Solace, now directing and starring in his new Kickstarter-funded film “Trust No One”) and me, 2015

roswell award group 11393157_10206278702702185_5846603274151926583_n (1)

Back row: David Dean Bottrell, comedy duo Charles, David Blue, William Hawkins, Gates McFadden, Catherine W. Cheres, Armin Shimerman, T. Lucas Earle, Patricia Tallman, Rosalind Helfand Front row: Jasika Nicole, Donna Glee Williams, Simon Kassianides, Melissa Yuan-Innes

One year ago, I was a Roswell finalist. You may remember my 2015 agonizing about spending the money to go to L.A. when I had a 1/6 chance of winning $1000. You can read about it here and here. I didn’t win, but I had a fabulous time.

And this year…

Dear Melissa,

Congratulations (again!)!

On behalf of SCI-FEST LA, I’m excited to announce that your story “Humans ‘N’ Hot Dogs,” is a finalist for

The Roswell Award for Short Science Fiction

Your story is one of just six finalists chosen from nearly 250 submissions received from around the world. Your story will be presented in an Awards & Staged Reading event featuring celebrity guest readers on Sunday, May 22 at 7:00pm at the Acme Theatre in Hollywood.

What? No way.

I ran through my usual reasons not to go. It will cost money. It will harm the environment. I should stay home with my kids. I should stay home and work. I should stay home and write. It’s too close to Max’s birthday, which is tomorrow.

Then I decided I wanted to go. Even though I’m sure I’m not going to win. “Humans ’n’ Hot Dogs.” C’mon. A comical piece doesn’t usually take top prize.

roswell finalists 2016 72ed0b_6288775339a74bf98aa4434eca5f935d

But what about Max’s birthday? Up until now, Max has had fairly extravagant birthday parties. Not in terms of renting out the Ritz, but in terms of time and sweat. When he was four, I made Thomas and Annie and Clarabel train cakes. DSC01525

When he was seven, he decided he wanted the solar system for his piñatas, so I set about making nine celestial bodies and told him, “Max, we’re going to skip Pluto. It’s not officially a planet anymore.” He said, “Awww! But I like Pluto!” So I felt like I had failed him, even though when his friend Lucas told his mom and my friend, Jessica, “Max is having nine piñatas,” she said, “Oh, Lucas, I’m pretty sure Max isn’t having nine piñatas.” But of course, he was. And that made me realize that not every mom would make the solar system for her kid with her own hands.

The past two years, we’ve done water fights and a piñata. For his ninth, we even had a small contingent of girls. But this year, he just wanted to go see the Angry Birds Movie with a few friends. So I thought he might not notice if I went to L.A. for the Roswell Awards.

When I asked Max, he started crying.

Oops. I gave him a big hug. We agreed that I’d fly down on the Saturday instead. That way, I’ll be home for his real birthday *and* Angry Birds. Because you only turn ten once, and even though he ignores me when his best friend, Jacob, is around, it’s cool that he still loves his mom and wants her at his party. That won’t happen for too much longer.

Why do I want to hit L.A.? There were a few things I didn’t have a chance to do the last time. Well, I mean, many, but on my last night, I met Neil from Buzzfeed, and he said I could tour the office. That is WAY cool to me, because…Eugene Lee Yang. I like the Try Guys (the American Ninja Warrior episode hooked me), I like Buzzfeed Violet, I like lots of things. But in the end, Eugene.


My 2015 Roswell friend, Kevin, had invited me to tour Caltech. And Human Remains, the fifth Hope Sze novel, is set in a lab. The ZINN lab said I could stop by. I also reached out to Bill (Dr. William L.) Stanford, whom I’d met through the UOHS conference. He just told me that he’d give me a tour of his Ottawa stem cell lab when I get back! Yeah!

And when I told John Burley, my new ER doctor-author friend, that I was flying down, he said, “It’s only a short flight from San Jose.”

IMG_7234So that makes me feel socially sophisticated, that I have an author-doctor friend flying down to meet me in L.A. for the Roswell Awards. Of course I also feel environmentally guilty, but right now, I’ve decided to travel a little when it calls me. If you want to learn more about John and his cricothyroidotomies, you can read my interview with him here or his official website.

In the meantime, I made homemade vanilla ice cream cake, using whipped cream, condensed milk, and real Madagascar vanilla beans for Max’s birthday. I hope it’s good. I love you, Max! Happy tenth birthday!

I’m on Rogers TV to Fight Back Pain–Along With Babywearing, Cats, the Ottawa Little Theatre, and Contraband Cigarettes!


Daytime Ottawa’s Roula Thomas, Dylan Black, me, and The Emergency Doctor’s Guide to a Pain-Free Back!


Mike Thompson, star of the Ottawa Little Theatre’s The Mouse House, demonstrates “I Am Not Worthy,” one of my back pain poses–and one he uses before every performance.

I appeared on Rogers TV’s Daytime Ottawa for The Emergency Doctor’s Guide to a Pain-Free Back! Yay!

Subscribers can tune in here. They’re also giving away a free copy, so contact the producer, Danielle [dot] Allard [at], if you’d like to win.

My co-stars included the Ottawa Little Theatre, Ottawa Stray Cat Rescue, and experts on babywearing contrabend cigarettes. I feel like I have a connection to all of these.

  1. I have a lot of respect for theatre–the thrill of the words, the flair of the actors, the mastermind of the director. Plus, Mike used to be a paramedic in Edmonton! Good reason to go see The Mouse House.

I bought this silk sling for Max. I have no idea where it is now.


Matt preferred the baby Bjorn. See the books behind them? I’m on my way to the Brantford Library to speak about Stockholm Syndrome: Lessons Learned in Hostage Taking. Yay, libraries!

2. We used to wear our babies all the time. It’s just a great way to keep your hands free while you’ve got an infant.

Débora Rodrigues was speaking for the Babywearing in Canada conference. I know my friend Dr. Mai-Anh LeVan is also a strong advocate for safe babywearing.

3. I don’t have a cute picture of contraband cigarettes, but I treat smokers (and families of smokers) all the time. You can watch their Rogers segment here.


Me and Anastasia. With baby-wrapping help from Genevieve, who is one of Anastasia’s godmothers.


For Anastasia’s baby naming ceremony, we had freezing rain and everyone was too afraid to drive–except our neighbour Eleanor and Matt’s parents friends, Maureen and Willie.


This is a kitten Matt rescued when he was walking Olo and heard some mewing. He figured she was very small because she could hardly walk. I named her Hilo, after a Hawaiian city, and also because then I could say Hilo Kitty. Please feel free to contact the Ontario SPCA or Ottawa Stray Cat Rescue!

4. IMG_2711We’ve always adopted our dogs through the SPCA. I still miss Olo, our first dog. Absolutely trustworthy, loyal, funny, and quiet. He died of metastatic cancer when he was barely five years old.

How to get syndicated on CBC radio

I’m making my CBC Radio debut in Nova Scotia! And BC! And Yukon! And Saskatchewan! And…

How is this possible, you ask?

Dr. back POD front cover 5x8 72Through the magic of CBC Radio Syndication. I didn’t know this existed, but when I reached out to Sandy of Ontario Morning to talk about The Emergency Doctor’s Guide to a Pain-Free Back, he suggested syndication.

Through syndication, you’re assigned a producer who submits an open call to CBC Radio shows across the country. The shows bid on you during the day, and then by 3 or 4 p.m., you get a schedule of which shows you’ll speak to from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. the next day.

“But…what if nobody wants to talk to me?” I said.

My producer, Vanessa, laughed. “I’ve never seen that happen.”

Still, I was concerned, until I got my Thursday schedule.


Gander – Central Morning

Leigh Anne Power – Host

Twitter: @centralmorning


Ottawa – Ottawa Morning Robyn Bresnahan – Host

Twitter (show): @OttawaMorning



Host: Craig Norris

Twitter: @cbckw891


Ontario AM 

Wei Chen – Host

Twitter: @CBCOntMorning


Cape Breton (Sydney) – Information Morning 

Steve Sutherland – Host

Twitter: @InfoMorningCB


Sudbury – Morning North 

Markus Schwabe – Host

Twitter (show): @MorningNorth

Twitter (host): @cbcmarkus


Kelowna – Daybreak South 

Chris Walker – Host

Twitter: @cbckelowna


Prince George / Prince Rupert – Daybreak North 

Hosts: Russell Bowers (PG) Carolina DeRyk (PR)

Twitter handle (show): @daybreaknorth

Prince George hosts: Carolina: @rupertsmaven


Vancouver –The Early Edition 

Rick Cluff – Host

Twitter (show): @cbcearlyedition


Whitehorse – A New Day 

Sandi Coleman – Host

Twitter (show): @cbcanewday


Regina – The Morning Edition 

Host: Sheila Cole, Twitter handle: @sheilacolescbc

CBC booth face with ER back smallerMy son Max said, “So, you’re going to be flying for ten days?”

“No, that’s the power of radio. I’m driving to Ottawa, and then I’m going to talk to people from coast to coast about back pain.”

My husband laughed at me. “Miss ‘What if nobody wants to talk to me.'”

Honestly, I didn’t know this was possible. Amazing. I love, love, love the CBC. And then tonight, I’ll be making my debut at Chapters Rideau with Stockholm Syndrome before coming back for more syndication interviews on Friday.

On the weekend, I’ll storm the Cornwall and Area Pop Event.

Then I get a day off before I’m the hospitalist at the Glengarry for the week.


CBC lobby leg up

I asked my host, Alexandre, to take a picture of me in the lobby, using my laptop. He obliged. Ottawa Morning’s Robyn Bresnahan admired my boots! She looked fabulous, even though she only had three hours of sleep. It’s a gift, I tell you.

If you want a chance to win a signed copy, drop me a line in the contact form with CBC as the subject and a message with your address and why you want to win.
Dr. back POD front cover 5x8 72

Screenshot 2016-04-20 21.41.58

Yay! You can buy it on Kobo.

Screenshot 2016-04-20 17.09.26

Yay! You can buy it on Also available through your local booksellers and other e-tailers.

P.S. I’m writing this on Parliament Hill. A security guy asked me what I was doing. I was standing at wall, typing on my laptop, instead of sitting like your average person. Because I’ve got this book on back pain. And, like I told Markus Schwabe of Morning North, “Sometimes, you have to decide if you’ll do the healthy thing, even if you look weird. I’ve always chosen looking weird, myself.”

What is back pain a symptom of?

Dr. back POD front cover 5x8 72by Melissa Yuan-Innes, M.D. and author of  The Emergency Doctor’s Guide to a Pain-Free Back: Fast Tips and Exercises for Healing and Relief.

What is back pain a symptom of?

    1. Muscle strain: : the most common culprit. You strained or even tore the muscles in your back. Happens to athletes, couch potatoes, weekend warriors…we all hurt muscles at one point or another.
    2. Soft tissue injury, like ligaments (which hold two bones together) and tendons (which connect muscle to bone) can get inflamed, pulled, or sheared off.
      Together, muscle and soft tissue injuries probably account for 70 percent of pain.
    3. Bone (vertebrae) problem. About 4 percent of back pain comes from osteoporotic fractures.

4. Discsfacet joint lateral 72 web
Ah, the intervertebral discs. The cushiony discs between the bones that can squish like a jelly doughnut. Everyone always asks, “Is it my disc?” But actually, only 4 percent of back pain patients have a disc herniation.

5. Facet Joints: If you think of the vertebrae like Lego bricks locking into each other, the facet joints are the hook-ups in the back.

When the discs start to wear down, these joints wear down, too, and get osteoarthritis[1]. It’s estimated that degeneration of facet and discs together account for about 10 percent of back pain patients.

spine nerves labeled-957249-20486. Neural stenosis.

Neural means nerve, and stenosis means the bone is narrowing down, but which nerve and which bone are you talking about?

6a. Foraminal stenosis: narrowing of the little tunnels where your nerve roots exit your spinal cord.

6b. Spinal stenosis: narrowing of the canal for the actual spinal cord. About 3 percent of people have spinal stenosis.

In other words, your spinal cord or spinal nerve roots are being squeezed by bone. Sounds scary, but usually it just means that the bone hole is a bit smaller, yet not pressing on the spinal cord or roots, which is really the end point we’re interested in. This is something that happens over time, gradually. Arthritis, basically.

So there you have it. Six causes of back pain.

Dr. back POD front cover 5x8 72

Preorder ebook now at $5.99 (regular price $9.99). Trade paperback also available. Both launch April 21st.

Remember, I’m a doctor, but I’m not your doctor, so you’ll have to consult your own health care practitioner.

For more details, preorder The Emergency Doctor’s Guide to a Pain-Free Back: Fast Tips and Exercises for Healing and Relief at 40% off, as well as Jack Stern’s book, Ending Back Pain.

You may also want to join my back pain site for free worksheets and videos that supplement the book. join-now-button-image (1)


[1] Harris RI, Macnab I. Structural changes in the lumbar intervertebral discs; their relationship to low back pain and sciatica. J Bone Joint Surg Br. 1954 May. 36-B(2):304-22.


Dr. Melissa Yuan-Innes is an emergency physician with a special interest in back pain and health education. Her publications include lead authorship of a paper on healing spinal wounds in the journal Spine.

Dr. Melissa Yuan-Innes is an emergency physician with a special interest in back pain and health education. Her publications include lead authorship of a paper on healing spinal wounds in the journal Spine.

Upcoming appearances:

OTTAWA: Chapters Rideau April 21 @ 7 p.m. with Crime Writers of Canada

CORNWALL: Cornwall and Area Pop Event, April 23-24

BRANTFORD: Mystery Guest of Honour, Brantford Library, May 11

Temporary note:

For my newsletter subscribers, I created a thank you page with the opening of HUMAN REMAINS, the fifth Hope Sze novel, which was supposed to be hidden, but was accidentally broadcast to my blog followers and perhaps to the world at large. So now the page is password-protected.