Why Emergency Medicine?

Trying to figure out what kind of doctor you should become? Wondering what specialty you should choose? Then SheMD's Why Specialty Series is perfect for you! We're bringing you female physicians sharing WHY they chose their specialty. Dr. Stobart-Gallagher discusses what its like to be an Emergency Medicine physician IN and OUT of the hospital.


I left work early that Wednesday, stopped to pick up a fresh Starbucks for a jolt of caffeine and headed to the train station before my migraine led to vision changes and vomiting. I got to the station a few minutes early and was just standing with my earbuds in (without anything playing) to give off that city look of ‘don’t bother me.’ I was carefully running a mental task list of things to be done when I got home: walk dog, feed the kids dinner, lunches, pack up the last few returns to Amazon from Christmas, summarize journal club article for the next evening, etc.… and then my train arrived, surprisingly 2 minutes early.


The crowd swarmed the doors in a hope to get a seat at a high volume time of day reminding me of a mass casualty needing triage. Clearly the folks slower to get to the doors probably need those seats folks! But I digress… I was about 5 or 6 people behind the main crowd when I hear a “oh no!” and see a flurry of activity from a conductor in front of me. I nosily stood on my tip toes and peered around thick peacoats and winter hats to see what all the fuss was about. It was then I saw a black puffy coat with silver hair peeking from above face down on the platform with a conductor standing over her looking panicked.


I looked around briefly to see if anyone was going to help her up, but I honestly did not want long. Without much hesitation, I pushed past those in front of me (either not moving or attempting to get around the situation to board the train at the other doors), let my earbuds dangle from my pocket still attached to my phone, put my hot cup on the ground, dropped my laptop bag and began to assess the patient. I was able to assist the station staff in assessment, stabilization, and treatment without difficulty and still made my train home.


Reflecting on this 10 minute interaction, I saw how far I have come in my training. While I have been out of residency for 4+ years, I often still feel like a trainee. I ascribe to the practice that I will always have more to learn and will never be satisfied with my personal skill set, but today I found myself smiling to myself and knowing how proud my parents would have been of me today.


I quickly: triaged the patient and performed a brief primary and secondary survey. Within a minute of her fall, I had established her trust, removed her from the scene with assistance and she was talking to me, telling me her medical history and meds and despite hesitancy of ‘hairy legs’ she allowed me to assess her wounds with only my own two hands – no stethoscope, no diagnostic studies or labs. I held her hand while strategically feeling her radial pulse throughout our conversation. I triaged both the patient’s undifferentiated reason for the fall as well as her injuries and relayed my concerns to both her and the responding providers. Once she was situated, I transitioned care.


What are Emergency Medicine Physicians?

We are traumatologists.

We are resuscitation experts.

We are responsible for initial assessment, stabilization, differentiating life threats from the mundane and initiating treatment or transfer.

And we do it under all circumstances with confidence.


Throughout this interview season, I have had the privilege to meet many prospective candidates for the field of Emergency Medicine. I often ask them about how they chose the field of Emergency Medicine and one answer that always sticks out to me is that “An EM physician is what I always envisioned a doctor to be.” I was proud today to be the physician that these students envision.


I am an Emergency Physician.

Anywhere. Anytime.

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