Gary Kanner Photo by Kelly Ardito
Gary Kanner Photo by Kelly Ardito
Gary Kanner Photo by Kelly Ardito
Gary Kanner
Photo by Kelly Ardito
Avery Drongowski Special to the Jewish News

NJP (Nice Jewish Person) Gary Kanner

Each month, The Well highlights an amazing (and eligible!) individual. The Well has agreed to share its Q & As with these amazing singles with the JN.

This month, The Well has a conversation with NJP Gary Kanner.

Q: What brought you to Metro Detroit?

GK: I came here for work! After I graduated from medical school back home in West Virginia, I “matched” into a three-year residency program in emergency medicine in one of the busiest ERs in Detroit. So, about a year ago, I packed up my things and my cat and shlepped on up to Michigan to settle into a whole new adventure in a state where I didn’t know a single person. I’ve been having a total blast and have made some amazing friends.

Q: You spend your days working as an ER doctor — tell us more!

GK: I spend my days (and many of my nights) training/working as an emergency medicine resident doctor in the ER at Ascension St. John Hospital. It’s a wild job and I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. We provide emergent health care for critically ill patients coming to our doors for any reason imaginable. In a given shift, I may have a patient who has been shot, a patient in active labor, a baby with a cold, a drug overdose, heart attack or stroke … all going on at the same time. The job is cognitively engaging, emotionally taxing and always interesting.

Q: I see that you’re a climber. How did that passion come about?

GK: Rock climbing has been my passion for the last 10 years. I grew up in southern West Virginia, which has world-class climbing. While I always knew I was stoked to climb, I didn’t really get into it until I started college at Boston University and started working in the gym and soon after teaching rock climbing classes. I was able to take my passion outdoors and climb all over New England before going on a five-month road trip to climb all over the American West before I went back to West Virginia for medical school. Whenever I have free time, I spend it living in a tent somewhere or exploring new adventures and new rock.

Q: What’s your favorite book?

GK: His Dark Materials trilogy (The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass) by Philip Pullman. It’s a book for children, but I read it when I was 22. The books beautifully weave adventure with a complex and beautifully laid out universe all governed by theories of physics (instead of magic). It’s super nerdy.

Q: Tell us about the best adventure you’ve ever been on.

GK: Oh, boy, I don’t know; they’ve all been great! It’s a three-way tie between the time I worked in a hospital in Paraguay for a month, the time I spent a week living in a secret cave in West Virginia and the summer I spent researching bats in Texas. All three experiences were challenging, uncomfortable and beautiful. It’s difficult to pick which life experiences have most shaped a person, but these three stand out to me as shaping who I’m becoming.

Q: Where would you most like to travel to that you haven’t visited?

GK: Alaska! I’m planning on moving there even though I’ve never been.

Q: How do you like to give back to the community/others?

GK: Clinical medicine. Part of my decision to go into medicine was because I knew I would have a skill I could take anywhere in the world and be a valued and helpful resource to anybody there. As I develop my career, I’d like to do community level clinical volunteering as well as one day do international disaster relief/refugee medicine.

Q: What’s your favorite Jewish holiday and why?

GK: Passover. I’m all about wine, gefilte fish and storytelling.

Q: Who do you think is the coolest Jew?

GK: Hard to say. My first thought is Albert Einstein, but I dunno, never met the guy. Growing up, I always thought my three older brothers were the coolest dudes in the world.

Q: If you could ask your cat three questions, what would they be?

GK: In the five years I’ve been living with my cat (his name is Billy Shears) I like to think we’re so close that there’s not a whole lot I don’t already know despite our lack of verbal communication. If I could ask three questions though: 1) How exactly do you view our arrangement/relationship to each other? 2) What are you thinking about when you just sit there looking at the floor for hours? 3) Why do you always gotta meow at me when I’m near the fridge? You know I’ll always feed you when the time is right!

Q: What accomplishment are you most proud of?

GK: Three-way tie between researching bats, training a stubborn hound and getting through medical school. These are the three things in my life that I considered quitting the most often.

Q: How about a fun fact?

GK: There are more synapses in your brain than there are stars in the universe.

Q: What are your three favorite movies?

GK: 1) Coming to America 2) Star Wars (all of them) 3) Wayne’s World.

Q: When you’ve had a bad day, what do you do to make yourself feel better?

GK: I really like to plug the drain, sit in the tub and run the shower. It’s like combination bath/shower and it’s my happy place. Is that weird?

Want to meet Gary? Email Rabbi Dan Horwitz at for an introduction.

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