If you were to compose a picture in your head of the ideal critical care physician for your child, the resulting person would possess a calm bedside manner, be tireless in advocating for the interests of children and have a talent for knowing just what to say to allay fears in difficult situations. Brian Nolan, M.D., clinical director of pediatrics at Hurley Medical Center, embodies all of this and more.
He is board certified in pediatrics, pediatric critical care and neonatology and is an asthma and bronchopulmonary dysplasia clinic physician. He is also one of only five pediatricians in Michigan who are board certified in child abuse pediatrics, plus the only one of that specialty in the tri-county region. He was appointed to the Hurley Medical Center Board of Managers in 2012.
“He comes into the room and the tension level comes down a notch,” F. Michael Jaggi, D.O., vice president and chief medical officer, says of his colleague’s calming presence in a medical crisis.
Those who work closely with Nolan consider him an icon of compassionate bedside care – not to mention the best at training others to provide it. Addressing a community need head on, he became board certified in child abuse pediatrics when he began seeing multiple cases of abuse. He estimates that he has testified in about 1,000 such cases.
“When we go to court, we’re not testifying for the kids, we’re not testifying for the prosecution or the defense. We’re testifying for the truth,” he says. “Sometimes it’s pretty straightforward. Other times it’s not 100 percent clear. I want people to understand, not all of this is simple.”
What is simple is his dedication to the well-being of his young patients and his admiration of their resilience. “Kids are tough, and they get better. They respond to treatment well, unlike the adults who often have underlying issues,” he says.
Hailing from Ireland, Nolan was educated at Trinity College and completed his residency at Hurley Medical Center and his fellowships at Children’s Hospital of Michigan. His academic interests include reducing asthma disparities, preventing injuries and educating others on the best possible care for children. He is an associate professor of pediatrics at Michigan State University’s College of Human Medicine and a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, the Genesee County Medical Society, the Michigan State Medical Society and the Society of Critical Care Medicine.
As an educator, Nolan is equally known for his accessibility and willingness to mentor as for his extensive clinical knowledge. He makes a point of being present at most resident conferences, winning rave reviews from the residents and medical students who work with him.
A former chief of staff, Nolan considers Hurley and the city of Flint as much a home to him as his actual residence. “My home is PICU [pediatric intensive care unit] and pediatrics, and the nurses are the backbone,” he says. “You need to have outstanding nurses to provide outstanding care. We’re fortunate to have that here at Hurley.”
He enjoys working within the diverse community Hurley serves and in his role on the board of managers has been committed to improving processes and enhancing Hurley’s services.
It’s hard to imagine he has any free time, but when he gets a chance to wind down, he enjoys bicycling and kayaking on Lake Michigan. A little-known fact about him is that he was captain of his high school rugby team. But Nolan’s competence and compassion endear him to his young, resilient patients. Or it might be simply that he makes them better. Either way, it’s clear why Dr. Brian Nolan is a standout among Hurley’s doctors.
“He comes into the room and the tension level comes down a notch” —F. Michael Jaggi, D.O.