For Medical school, you attended the University of North Carolina School of Medicine: Chapel Hill. Tell us about why it made the top of your list:
As a North Carolina native and having grown up in Raleigh, UNC-Chapel Hill was always my number one choice for college. UNC was my only application…it’s Chapel Hill… what’s not to love? My undergraduate years were filled with performing with the Loreleis (an all-female acapella group), research, and navigating the balance of a pre-med track and the Carolina experience. The memory of celebrating on Franklin Street after winning the NCAA basketball championship is a bucket list memory. I took a gap year between undergrad and medical school choosing to study in England and work in the local hospitals outside of London.
For medical school, I thought, staying a Tar Heel would continue to offer an outstanding value, being close to home with the benefit of enjoying all that Chapel Hill has to offer. UNC provided a well-rounded training program both in medical school and for Emergency Medicine residency. Go Heels!
You completed your residency also at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine: Chapel Hill. Please share with us why you chose this program.
Initially, I started my training in general surgery in Greenville, NC, completing three years. These were three, very long and tough years and ultimately, I realized emergency medicine would allow me to practice acute care medicine but with greater schedule predictability and a better lifestyle. Changing this trajectory mid-residency is unusual, truthfully a bit risky, and extremely cumbersome. I was fortunate to find a mentor within the UNC-EM faculty who was instrumental in advocating and assisting with the transfer back to UNC. Subsequently, in the years that followed (now 16), she remains one of my dearest friends and advisors. Coming home to Carolina just felt right and I am thankful for my surgery training which has served me well in emergency medicine.
Tell us more about how you came to choose the field of medicine?
I grew up with a father who was, unfortunately, a brittle diabetic with a number of health problems including bypass surgery at the age of 42, was on dialysis at 48. He died suddenly at age 49. Exposure to medicine was woven into the fabric of my family life. With increasing interest in applying to medical school, I shadowed several of his physicians in the years after he passed to learn more about interventional cardiology, orthopedics, and vascular surgery.
While I never closed the door to the possibility of medical school, it wasn’t until I served on a 2-week medical mission trip to Jamaica, after my junior year of college, that I was sure it was the best fit for me. During the trip, I experienced my first assist in the OR on a case, taking histories, finding commonalities with patients with such diverse backgrounds, and the ability to mitigate illness and improve the quality of life for these patients. I was now certain of my career choice.
What about becoming a physician was attractive?
Simply the intersection of science, my personality type, and the desire to serve in a meaningful way.
How did you choose Emergency Medicine as your specialty?
Emergency medicine was my last rotation of my fourth year of medical school and had limited ED exposure prior to this and, I had committed to general surgery by this point. With the subsequent realization over the next years that I loved the medicine of surgery, the acuity of trauma, and critical care but NOT the tradeoff of a life spent inside the OR, Emergency Medicine became a real option. During my lab year in Greenville as a third-year resident, I returned to UNC for a visiting rotation month in the ED and no doubt, the ED was the perfect fit.
What do you enjoy most about your day to day practice?
Emergency medicine is a team sport and it is never the same day twice. I learn every day from my patients, partners, and our support team members. I think the ED is a unique microcosm of society with all our current health care, social, and emotional struggles that intersect at our open doors. Despite the challenges, I am thankful to practice medicine within this environment, and as a provider, take the responsibility of being the community safety net very seriously. In the emergency department, the office lights are never turned off, we are always available for our patients and their families, and this department is never on vacation. We are here when patients have nowhere else to turn or other specialties are not sure how to best manage their patient situation…the ED is always their first resource.
What led you to practice with MEMA?
One of my chief residents at UNC, Dr. Chris Reynolds, had joined MEMA a year before me. As I began the search for a private, democratic group to join after graduation he reached out. His belief in the integrity of the practice, its longevity and esteem within the Charlotte medical community, and the physicians who were a part of this organization was very influential. It became an easy choice.
Has there been one patient, staff member, or caregiver story that has stuck with you?
There are so many. I am always humbled and surprised when my patients, often unknowingly, care for me in their shared stories of wisdom that comes with age, a perspective that comes from illness, and their appreciation for what we do. I grow from these interactions.
I cared for a gentleman who presented critically ill about a year ago. A rapid assessment and expedited workup revealed an acute aortic dissection. I explained to both him and his wife that his condition was life-threatening and emergency surgery was imminent. I insisted he call his children on the phone before he went to the OR. His son was trying to fly home emergently from Texas. Being a witness to a conversation between a father and his child in what could be a final conversation is humbling and emotional. After four hours in the OR, he survived and made a full recovery. Around 6 months later, while on a shift I was called by the triage nurse to notify me that a “man out there was looking for me.” As I walked out to the waiting room, I knew exactly who this gentleman was, and he started his conversation to me, “I don’t know if you remember me or not?” I spoke to him by name and we instinctively embraced, both a little teary. He was profoundly thankful and grateful for our care in the ED and as he presented me with a box of beautiful cupcakes and said, “It seems kinda weird to give you cupcakes for saving my life.” A full-circle moment like this makes the hard days totally worth it.
Are you a member of any associations, societies, or organizations?
I am a member of the American College of Emergency Medicine (ACEP), the North Carolina College of Emergency Physicians (NCCEP), and the North Carolina Medical Society (NCMS).
Have you received any awards or been recognized by your peers? If so, tell us about it!
In 2018 & 2019, I was recognized as a Top Doctor in Charlotte Magazine. Also, in 2019, I received an Angel award from Novant Health which provides recognition for outstanding care for a patient, who subsequently gave a notable financial gift in my honor to the Novant Medical Foundation.
What was your dream job when you were a child?
To sing on Broadway. I grew up in the theatre, performing locally, and throughout high school and college. As a college senior, our acapella group won the national championships, and we were asked to perform on Good Morning America.
What about Charlotte excites you?
The overall vibrance of the city, how much it has to offer, and its location to travel to the coast or the mountains for the weekend.
Do you have any hobbies, interests, secret powers that are unique to you?
I love interior design. I had a small home décor business with my mother and sister for 8 years, but we have moved on from that now, but I still love to create beautiful collected spaces for friends and family…or just myself.