Human Interest


I can’t imagine spending 41 years working in an emergency room. Forty-one HOURS would be enough for me. In fact, I’m not sure I would be the same person after 41 years of exposure to people intoxicated on alcohol, stuporous from drugs, dying from gunshot wounds, or critically injured by an impaired driver. Your perspective on humanity would change 180°. Compassion would be replaced by anger and impatience. Courtesy would be challenged by rudeness and profanity. Impartiality would give way to bias or judgement.

However, if you have the right spirit, the right heart, the right principles you can make it. Having a fundamental substrate of goodness, kindness, understanding, and love, one can avoid being tainted by the view of society often witnessed in an emergency room. Not everyone abuses drugs and alcohol. Not everyone lives in a violent, threatening world. As long as we realize that and don’t let it influence our behavior, 41 years in the ER is a ministry, not an imprisonment.

Most people who enter the medical profession liked science as a youth. The man I’m writing about is no exception. Others told him he should be a preacher, but his talents evolved elsewhere. Finishing college in 3 years, he headed for med school, then a rotating internship in Indianapolis. The Berry Plan denied a deferment to complete training uninterrupted so he signed up as an Indiana National Guard reservist, a 6-year obligation. This allowed him to complete a three-year Internal Medicine residency uninterrupted except for summer camp. He considered being an ICU specialist, but in 1970, his career took a significant turn.

He was one of the first physicians chosen by his hospital to work full time in the ER, previously staffed by residents and interns. The idea for full-time physicians staffing the ER was new. He was one of the originals who stuck it out 41 years. In 1972, he became board certified in Internal Medicine, and later by the American College of Emergency Medicine. 

Emergency Medicine residencies were a novel idea at that time. His hospital wanted to be a leader in that area so he, and others, were heavily involved in organizing, certifying, and implementing an Emergency Medicine residency at his hospital. The program is now one of the most prestigious EM residencies in the country.

During his 41 years in practice he worked only two places. His first employer, who had trained him, changed the rules for their physician employees after 20+ years, forcing him to seek an ER position elsewhere. The latter hospital became his employer until retirement.

Emergency Medicine allowed this man to be a primary care doctor and specialist at the same time. He saw everyday, family doctor problems in one room and trauma surgeon, cardiologist, critical care specialist problems in another. But when his shift ended, he was done. No night call, no hospital rounds, no ICU visits. His free time was his to share with his nuclear family, his church family, and those whose spiritual needs he could attend. His faith and religious commitment guided the direction of his life. He was committed to improving the lives and meeting the needs of others. He led countless people to the Lord through his spiritual and professional life.

Retirement has allowed him time to travel and spend time with his children who live away from Indiana. His children all achieved professional degrees and have successful careers of their own. His many grandchildren have a wide range of ages and live as far away as Africa.

He not only had a long and rewarding medical career, he was actively involved in parenting his children and in the leadership of his church. His spiritual life work placed him in a position to influence others through his example. Christ in your life can make such a difference, as it did in his, and anyone who knows him sees His influence at work. He spent forty-one years in the ER, a physical lifetime serving his family and church, and looks forward to spending eternity with God. 

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