Four years ago, I sat in a historic Denver theatre auditorium, ready to embark upon some of the most challenging, transformative years of my life. Faculty shared words of wisdom for docs new and old. And as I sat in that same auditorium on the cusp of my own residency graduation, I reminisced about the trials and tribulations of my journey.
I reflected on the lessons I remembered hearing 4 short years ago, at the beginning of my voyage:
- Don’t forget your roots.
- Some of life’s worst regrets are failed acts of kindness, including to oneself.
- The greatest joy in life is being part of something bigger than yourself.
These words can easily be applied to our personal and professional lives, but with a little imagination, I think we also see how they might be applied more broadly. In light of Dr. John Rogers recently stepping down from his position as ACEP President-Elect, I think we should apply this wisdom to how we think about our specialty, too.
Don’t Forget Your Roots
For me, becoming a physician was a grueling task. The standardized approach to patient interaction taught by medical schools felt scripted, overly regimented, and ultimately dehumanizing to me as a student. One of the biggest gifts that I ever gave myself was permission to be myself, while also being a doctor. Life’s more fun when you’re your genuine self. Know where you’re going, but don’t forget where you came from.
While EMRA believes the only pathway to the independent practice of emergency medicine in the 21st century is residency training and board certification, this policy does not say we do not value the pioneers who paved the way for us. Modern medical school graduates can now easily match into one of more than 200 emergency medicine residency programs, and upon successful completion of their training will become board-certified by ABEM or AOBEM.
Emergency medicine is one of the youngest medical specialties, and it would not exist if not for the handful of mavericks who knew there had to be a better way. They challenged the status quo. They formed organizations to advocate for the creation of a new specialty in the house of medicine. The earliest of them trained in residency programs for a specialty that didn’t yet exist. They built a system for acute, unscheduled, episodic care unlike anything the world had ever known. We are thankful for the trailblazers. We are who we are today because of you. You took the road less traveled, and it has made all of the difference.
Don’t Regret Failed Acts of Kindness, Including to Yourself
We each have the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others every day. When our ability as physicians to solve problems falls short, our ability to make an impact by being compassionate human beings begins. We can listen. We can empathize. We have the privilege of healing those from all walks of life, sometimes through the simple act of kindness. Working in the ED can be stressful, and in those moments of chaos, take a deep breath, smile, and forgive yourself for being only human.
I have been taken aback by the recent activities of a vocal few emergency physicians on social media who have been hurling insults against individuals and organizations. It’s disappointing to see this behavior at all, and even more disappointing if any group of professionals finds it acceptable. The practice of medicine is challenging enough without us attacking and criticizing one another. Be kind to your colleagues.
If you want a membership organization to take action on an issue, become a member and get involved. A social media post is not a replacement for a resolution or thoughtfully written letter to a leader. You might be surprised by what you can accomplish when you take a kinder, more thoughtful approach.
The Greatest Joy in Life
To get into medical school and residency, we must succeed as individuals. To be effective leaders and emergency physicians, we must learn to succeed as a team. I am so thankful to my family and friends, the EMRA Board and staff, the members and leaders of ACEP, and the attendings, nurses, techs, and co-residents at Denver Health for allowing me to experience the joy of being something bigger than myself.
At the end of the day, we’re all in this together. We all want what is best for our patients and our specialty. We need to experience the joy of what it means to be an emergency physician. As John Rogers says, we need unity.