Colleen Kelley, MD, FACEP
As a resident, while working during the many shifts of each rotation, I would wonder at the depth and breadth of knowledge of the attendings I spent each day with. Where did they learn all of this information? How do they remain so current all the time? From where had come their devotion to sharing what they know and training a whole new group of emergency physicians each year?
Through the questions and training, a consistent theme threaded its way through the years. The greatest instruction and the broadest font of knowledge were usually passed on by an MD, FACEP. Hmmm, so just what does that mean - a Fellow of the American College of Emergency Physicians? Oh, OK. It seemed, then, to mean someone who was especially smart, well trained, and willing to share their knowledge of the art and science of practicing emergency medicine. At this time the title of "MD, FACEP" seemed to represent the great medicine and the superb intellect of the best our specialty has to offer. As a resident, it seemed a nearly impossible goal to achieve when compared to the daunting challenge of just learning enough to be a good physician and to pass the emergency medicine boards.
After four years of residency, it was now my turn to be a doctor in the lead position. It became my responsibility to practice excellent and ethical emergency medicine. In addition, along with my professional colleagues, I now became the person to whom the students, nurses, and EMS personnel came with questions, requests for guidance and critique, answers, and clinical decisions. Schools and scout troops sent requests for lectures. An especially interesting, although tragic case, became the basis for an article, as did an exploration of how medicine is delivered in Italy after a trip abroad. The local newspaper and television stations asked for articles and interviews on various topics. Medical Staff Bylaws required participation in at least one hospital committee and attendance at a minimum of 50% of department meetings. I was recruited to help teach ACLS and then was appointed as physician oversight for the course. The local EMS coordinator also requested lectures for the continuing education series for our all-volunteer rescue squad. As a participating instructor for a senior elective program for a local college, I was appointed Associate Professor.
Not much of this was a planned part of career enhancement. It all just seemed to happen because I was a highly visible member of a small department in a small community.
After three years as an attending, it was time to start working on progressive career enhancement and begin the process of further commitment, education and delivery of medicine to attain the goal of becoming a Fellow of the American College of Emergency Physicians. With a sense of dread and worry about how much more time and effort would be required, I contacted ACEP in Dallas to request the information on Fellow requirements.
A few days later, the envelope arrived and my husband groaned, worried that he and the children would see even less of me. It was with great delight, and even surprise, that I discovered that the work of the preceding years more than fulfilled the requirements of fellowship.
The attendings in the McGaw emergency medicine program were even greater teachers and leaders that I had previously thought. Through example, they had taught me how to be a great doctor. They had also fostered the fascination and drive needed to become an ACEP Fellow. Without even realizing what it could represent, I had been led by these and other great leaders in emergency medicine to a level of excellence in medicine and civic awareness that is unique to our specialty.
I stood in awe of the Fellows, and yet now I am one too.
My 90-year-old great uncle was still a practicing general doctor at that time. He summed it up best when he sent his congratulations. In the same letter, he admonished me to maintain a level of excellence in medical practice, to accept the additional responsibility that it carries to teach and to lead in the community, and to always be quietly sure of my abilities but especially caring of my patients.
"You are among the best this country has to offer," he wrote. "Do not lord it over others, but instead use it to further the care that you extend to your patients. Your FACEP title is not a badge to shine in the sun, but an acknowledgement of training, commitment to your career, and excellence in medicine. Share that knowledge and use that excellence for the benefit of others."
Most of you reading this are emergency medicine residents, and as such, you are also among the best in this specialty. Share your knowledge. Remain committed to your hospital and the community where you live and work. Follow your interests and share what you learn and gain. Reach out to the young, and the old. Lead the learners and learn in the process. Through all of these activities and many others, you will continue to be inspired and will also become a Fellow of the American College of Emergency Physicians.