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Sarnia connection with new CTV hospital drama just what the doctors ordered

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Troy Shantz

After a truck crashes through a restaurant in the thrilling first episode of the new CTV series Transplant the protagonist uses a power drill on a victim in a risky medical procedure.

The scripted scenario — not for the faint of heart — was envisioned by Sarnia doctor Rauf Kahn, the father of Oscar-nominated director and series writer Sami Khan.

“My dad is a storyteller too and he loves movies,” said Khan, who consulted his internist dad repeatedly during the three-year run-up to the launch.

Sami Khan

“Not all doctors understand that the most important thing is to tell a compelling story, and my dad gets that.”

Sami Khan, featured recently in The Journal for his Oscar-nominated documentary St. Louis Superman, isn’t the only Sarnian working on the Canadian-produced hospital drama.

Supervising producer Lauren MacKinlay also grew up here and, remarkably, also in a medical home.

Her father is Sarnia-based orthopedic surgeon Dr. Duncan MacKinlay, and her sister, Dr. Alison MacKinlay, is a general practitioner in Ohio.

“I called them all the time,” said MacKinlay, who coordinated with writers, actors and directors on season one of the 13-episode series. “It was probably really annoying.”

Shot in Montreal and set in Toronto, the network drama features a Syrian doctor who fled his war-torn homeland for a new life in Canada. Dr. Bashir “Bash” Hamed (Hamza Haq) is unknown in the Canadian medical community until a multi-casualty accident showcases his battle-tested skills, bringing him employment and notoriety.

Medical professionals are hired as show consultants, but Sami Kahn said his father provided ideas for two different episodes.

“Often the bigger issue physicians, nurses and health-care nurses have with fiction are the procedural things,” said Khan. “I think we found the biggest thing was just getting the procedure right, and who was doing what.”

One of Lauren MacKinlay’s jobs is ensuring accuracy is maintained throughout the writing and production, she said.

Frequently she sought advice from her family. Her sister sent voice messages with the proper pronunciation of medications, and her father instructed one of the lead actors on how to do a knee exam via video call.

“The worst case scenario for me would be picturing people like my dad or my sister watching the show, and instead of getting drawn into the world of the characters be drawn out by the inaccuracies,” she said.

Khan and MacKinlay were both quick to note they aren’t medical people, so growing up in a doctor’s home proved an asset for the show.

“When it came time to being on set and being in this massive hospital … It felt so familiar, just from visiting my dad so much at the hospital and being in a medical environment,” said MacKinlay, who did administrative work at her father’s practice when young.

“So I guess I retained more of that than I thought.”

Added Khan, “I’m definitely comfortable with the medical field. And I also knew that it wasn’t for me.”

With two TV credits to his name, Dr. Duncan MacKinlay said he is thrilled to support his daughter’s work. He recently spent time on set coaching an actor on how he should walk with a disconnected shoulder, he said.

“I’ve never really been exposed to it at that level,” he said. “It was quite interesting.”

Transplant airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on CTV.

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