How Disney Shaped My Personal Odyssey

by Adam Lund

The event medical community is special to me.  I’ve been involved in event medical coverage at community events since I was a ‘tween’ with a variety of organizations, in many different roles, from junior first aider to medical director. The network of people I have interacted with who share this passion inspire me to continue to invest a ridiculous amount of time in this work. Just ask my wife, Shana!

What makes this community work? What values to we share? What do we think is important? Why do we do what we do? What is it about the culture of event medicine community that feels so different from ‘the day job?’

When I think about a strong organizational culture, I think about my time with Disney. Yes, I was a Disney doc, once upon a time.

During those deployments, I learned about an organizational culture of “customer service” in the context of health care. I worked with Vanter Cruise Health Services on the Disney Cruise Line (on board the Magic, the Wonder and the Dream). I worked 6 contracts on the Disney Cruise Line as a ship’s doctor, and I learned a lot more than maritime medicine. Coming from a country with socialized health care, I was trained to accept overcrowding, long wait times, and whatever service provider was available. 

However, on the cruise ships, it was made pretty clear that customer satisfaction, and guest experience overall, was a pretty important metric. I understood that. The cost of that kind of vacation for a whole family is prohibitive for most, and the last thing someone wants is to get sick while on vacation. When someone does get sick, the health care team can make a difference in turning things around, or at least make a bad situation better. 

At first, when I was exposed to the “customer service” messaging, I internally rolled my eyes. “I’m a doctor, dammit… not a concierge!” I thought it would feel saccharine and fake… but it didn’t. For almost the first time in my career, I was expected (and supported) to take the time that the patients/guests in front of me needed to feel fully heard and cared for. In the end, we delivered VERY high-quality care. We were taking care of the CLIENT (Disney, in this case), who took justifiable pride in their brand and the quality that they want projected by all who are associated with them. 

And, it felt great. The time to really connect with people without the usual rush and pressure to get through volumes of patients was very satisfying. Disney made me a fan of great customer service, and introduced me to the idea of a ‘guest experience’ in a whole new way. 

Customer Service and Guest Experience at Events – The 4 C’s

Event work has some things in common with that vacation environment. Our team has thought a lot about customer service and guest experience, and we have concluded that there is more than one group that we have to take care of. This led us to the “4 C’s:”

  2. CREW
  3. CUSTOMER (the patient)

We are contracted by a CLIENT in a particular COMMUNITY to assemble the CREW to take amazing care of their CUSTOMERS in the event of an illness or injury while on event. No one comes to the event hoping to meet the medical team, but we are there to help an otherwise unfortunate situation be a bit better.  If we take care of our four C’s when we are deployed, good things happen.

  1. Our CLIENTS

Our CLIENTS are the folks who hire us, and invite us out to provide service. They have the ultimate responsibility for the success (and safety profile) of their events and venues. They trust us to provide professional service, whether volunteer, paid or both, and to ensure that their CUSTOMERS and staff are taken care of if there is a need. Some of the events we work have intrinsic risks associated with the activity, the environment, crowd behaviours/choices and other factors. We are a key part of mitigating that risk when it cannot be eliminated, and responding when an incident actually occurs. 

  1. Our CREW

Event medicine is ultimately a human services business. Without amazing, credentialed, professional volunteers and staff who want to come out and offer their skills and knowledge on event, we have nothing to offer. We know that we have to take great care of our CREW, so that they will continue to choose to give their time to support our missions, deployments and adventures. 

  1. Our CUSTOMERS (patients)

The CUSTOMERS in the event medicine context are the patients who present for service on or around the event. Whether spectators, athletes, participants, musicians, production team members, contractors, vendors and more, these CUSTOMERS did not come out with the intention of meeting the medical team. When our CREW can have positive, helping interactions with patients, then the CUSTOMERS are cared for and so are our CLIENTS. 


It’s also important to acknowledge that events do not occur in isolation. They happen in the context of a COMMUNITY. Sometimes there are impacts related to traffic, additional crowds, noise and the like. Hopefully events will rarely impact the baseline community’s ability to provide emergency health care to the baseline population. We strive to support the COMMUNITY by communicating and partnering with health and emergency stakeholders in advanced planning, and coordinating the right on-site services to prevent unnecessary ambulance transfers and hospital visits, while expertly facilitating the necessary ones. When we get this balance right, we are helping our CLIENT take care of the event’s host COMMUNITY. 


Caring for the 4 C’s

Great CREW members taking superb care of CUSTOMERS (patients) on events are supporting our CLIENTS who ultimately bring great events to our COMMUNITIES. Ensuring that we do what is reasonable on event to prevent unnecessary transports protects our COMMUNITIES and maintains capacity for emergency response beyond the borders of the event. 

From my own experiences, I offer simply this. Creating a culture of great customer service, and thinking about ‘guest experience’ in the context of event medicine is satisfying. It’s an important balancing influence in my professional life, as the hospital environment is not always resourced to let this happen optimally. I know from my prehospital support job that it’s just as tough ‘on the road’ at times. I thought it might feel a bit ‘put on,’ but practicing this customer-oriented positivity turns out to be energizing, and sometimes a bit infectious.

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