February 29, 2024

Chair’s Corner: A Bald Eagle and Women in EM

Crows, lots of crows. I think there were 10 or so, all feeding and cawing around the pile left from field dressing my son’s first doe yesterday. Wow. This is may not seem like our typical lead off for an AAWEP article, so allow me to clarify. I am a deer hunter. It was November in Wisconsin, during our gun deer season hunt. I was sitting out in my deer stand, enjoying a beautiful morning in nature, listening to the crows and taking in all Mother Nature was offering. The marsh before me was frosted from overnight’s chill. The trees too stood tall and their branches, naked of leaves, reached awkwardly with frosted tips and angles. The air was crisp and fresh, and I could see my breath as I exhaled. This morning, I was hunting from the Cadillac of deer stands on our farm. I had four walls, a roof, and a nice ledge to rest my AAWEP coffee mug. It was blissful.

As I was sitting cozy and sipping coffee, I saw a bald eagle, perched high on a branch overlooking our marsh just opposite my stand.  To the east were those crows, cawing and jumping over each other, picking at that gut pile. The eagle, her majestic self, was not concerned about those crows, it seemed she was on her own hunt. After several minutes, she flew over the crows on the gut pile, low enough to startle the crows but not stopping or landing on the scavenger’s delight. Instead, she perched on a low branch, near them and her potential breakfast, but also just out of reach. She sat there upright and tall. Slowly, she looked left and then right, like a queen surveying her subjects. The crows sat on nearby branches, scattered by the massive bald eagle, and sat in silence and reverence of the eagle. No one cawed. No one flapped their wings. No one moved except the eagle, who, after a few long seconds, stretched her wings and launched herself into the air. She flew back to her high post overlooking the marsh and continued her hunt.

It was the perfect combination of power and grace. She definitely and clearly held power over those crows. She was the apex predator.  She could have taken that whole pile of food and ate to her satisfaction. She could have bullied those crows, tormented and played with them, showing off her power and might. She instead, made them aware of her presence, forced them to recognize her power, and with grace, allowed them to continue to feed.

She reminded me of us women in EM. We run a department and a critical room with the same power and grace. When on shift, we are at the apex of the ED, yet we do not abuse our power.  We remain calm and controlled amongst the chaos of EM and critical care. We do not bully or yell. We do not throw temper tantrums. We have seen some apex leaders run a room with fear and anger. We, like that female eagle, choose differently. We demonstrate grace with our calm and our excellent communication skills and empathy for our patients, families, and our fellow ED staff. How many times has the nurse said, “I’m so glad it was you on today,” after you finished a code or trauma? Have you noticed the genuine smile and gratitude from housekeeping or the paramedic or anyone else staffed in your department?  It is there.  Look and you’ll start noticing how much you are appreciated. Let us as women in EM know we are powerful and we are graceful as we enjoy to revel in the fond memories of 2023’s Holiday Season and reminisce of the time spent, whether our work family or our true family at home. I wish you all a happy and healthy 2024 and look ahead with optimism for what we have planned for AAWEP!  


Alecia Gende, DO, CAQSM
Mayo Clinic Health System
La Crosse, WI

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