My Road to Emergency Medicine

Helene Morakis

MS4 at Queen’s School of Medicine

Incoming EM resident at the University of British Columbia

My first shadowing exposure to clinical medicine was in Pediatric Emergency Medicine (EM). Before starting medical school, I lifeguarded during my studies. Over six years, I had sent a handful of children to the Pediatric Emergency Department (ED) and always wondered what happened to them. I expected the shadowing experience to be chaotic and stressful.

The supervising physician shattered all my preconceived stereotypes about emergency medicine: she listened empathetically to patients and their parents, she took the time to teach her timid mob of medical learners and she managed to stay calm while juggling multiple cases of varying acuity. I left that shift – and all of my subsequent adult and peds EM shadowing shifts – in awe. I wanted to be part of this group of skilled physicians that made meaningful short connections with patients and was eager to tackle any case that came through the door.

I wanted to be part of this group of skilled physicians that made meaningful short connections with patients.

While in medical school I found I also loved the collaborative setting, the fast pace and the challenging contrast between cases in EM. My first two EM clerkship shifts entailed performing CPR, providing patient education in English, French and Spanish (and kicking myself for not learning at least three more languages!), ruling out a stroke in a non-verbal patient, and suturing a laceration after an assault. I was hooked. The opportunity to care for patients during their most difficult moments solidified my passion for Emergency Medicine. I love the “anyone, anything, anytime” mantra shared across ED’s that I visited on electives.

The opportunity to care for patients during their most difficult moments solidified my passion.

ANY

One
Thing
Time

EM is a broad and flexible field

Being fascinated by healthcare delivery in diverse settings and motivated by social justice I was interested particularly in Global Health and Wilderness Medicine in my pre-clinical years before dedicating myself to EM. Luckily, EM is a broad and flexible field and allows me to combine all of these interests.

I have been particularly interested in the online community that is working to advance EM and recruit medical students to the growing specialty on an international scale. Learning from and contributing to projects such as iEM is motivating and I am energized by like-minded medical learners around the world. My passion outside of school in the past two years has been working with the International Student Association of Emergency Medicine.

EM community is the best!

I may be biased, but I think the EM community is the best! There is an incredibly dynamic and well-established online presence that I have found very welcoming. Along with learning tips and tricks from FOAMed gurus, I had the opportunity to reflect on the EM mindset and social issues with the FemInEM community. Going to the FemInEM Idea Exchange 2018 (FIX18) conference last year in NYC as a student ambassador was an incredible experience and made me motivated to continue connecting with like-minded EM colleagues online.

Shana Zucker medical student, LGBTQIA+ advocate, at the FIX18 conference presenting her Queericulum

When I’m not in the hospital, I like to play outside. Participating in Wilderness Medicine allows me to do so even more and I like to think about how to deliver healthcare in non-hospital environments. I love that I can continue pursuing this passion through EM. The Wilderness Medical Society (WMS) has conferences, courses and research opportunities for medical students. I am working on my Fellowship of the Academy of Wilderness Medicine (FAWM) and hoping to gain more on the ground experience and contribute to research in this field as I move through my career!

When I’m not in the hospital, I like to play outside.

Hiking King’s Throne in Kluane National Park, YT, Canada, between EM shifts in Whitehorse, YT

The excitement and variety continue after shifts in EM. Between the online medical education community, on-shift teaching, research opportunities, the world of simulation and the interdisciplinary applications of EM, it is a specialty that academically has a lot of opportunities. Shift work is challenging, but offers flexibility to pursue my hobbies outside of work. There is a general culture of work-life integration and promotion of wellness shared among emergency physicians. At my home school program, Queen’s Department of Emergency Medicine, I saw this reflected in the resident and faculty mindsets and it contributed to my own prioritization of my wellness.

EM is a specialty that academically has a lot of opportunities.

The best advice I have received about choosing a specialty has been to follow my passions. The road to EM has been a fun adventure and has given me plenty of opportunities to do so. I am excited to start residency at the University of British Columbia. With teaching opportunities, unique pathology and a high volume of trauma, the residency at Vancouver General Hospital will be a busy but incredible ride.

Vancouver, BC, Canada

I look forward to pursuing my outdoor interests and enjoying urban amenities in Vancouver between shifts. With faculty and resident involvement in Wilderness Medicine and Global EM, I see many fun opportunities lying ahead!

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