There was lots to celebrate at the first-ever emergency medicine reunion.
Feeling lost, anxious, clueless—just utterly, glaringly, brand new—every physician has been there on the first day of residency. But what’s it like if it’s the residency program’s first day too?
“It certainly was an experience like no other,” says Selim Suner ’86 ScM’87 MD’92 RES’96 F’04, one of seven members of Brown University’s first emergency medicine (EM) residency class. “On my first day as an intern, there were no senior residents to guide me. We took care of the sickest patients from day one. We did a lot of learning on our own.”
From those shaky first steps, the Alpert Medical School emergency medicine residency program—the first in the Ivy League and in New England—now stands firmly as one of the top programs in the nation. The group boasts more than 100 physicians, who train 48 residents and serve 270,000 patients each year.
“It’s been a very interesting journey to see what those seeds that we sowed turned into,” says Suner, who has turned into a professor of emergency medicine and director of one of the department’s many subspecialties, the Disaster Medicine and Emergency Preparedness Fellowship Program.
Suner was also a member of the planning committee for a reunion like no other: the Department of Emergency Medicine Mega-Anniversary Celebration, an over-the-top name to mark three significant milestones: the 25th year of the residency program; the 20th year of the University Emergency Medicine Foundation, the physician practice plan; and the 12th year of the academic department.
Peter Chai ’06 MMS’07 MD’10 RES’14, an assistant professor of emergency medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, was also on the planning committee, and Brian Clyne MD’97, an associate professor of emergency medicine and of medical science at Alpert Medical School, was chair. More than 120 faculty, alumni, and residents attended the two-day celebration, in September, including more than a dozen who spoke about their careers and how the EM residency helped shape them.
“They talked about how Brown was the catalyst for our ability to become effective physicians and to find all of our interests outside of Brown and leverage that stuff to become who we are today,” Chai says. “People who go to Brown are a little bit different than everybody else, in a good way.”
Plus, he adds, “It’s cool, we all went to Brown! We all had that singular experience.”
The Mega-Anniversary marked one other department milestone: its 10th year with Brian Zink, MD, the Frances Weeden Gibson–Edward A. Iannuccilli, MD, Professor of Emergency Medicine, at the helm. “He really did take us to the next level and expanded the department,” Suner says of Zink, who came to Providence from the University of Michigan in 2006 to be the inaugural chair. “He opened the program to the rest of the country. It was not a homegrown program anymore; now it had a nationally well-known leader. That legitimized us to some extent.”
In gratitude, the reunion organizers gave Zink the 2016 Outstanding Leadership in Emergency Medicine Award, and promptly renamed it the Brian J. Zink, MD, Outstanding Leadership in Emergency Medicine Award, which will be given annually.
“EM’s not the best at reflecting on the past—we’re always moving forward,” Zink said at the celebration. He asked attendees to reflect on the hard work, the vision, and especially the people who built “one of the premier departments of EM and, I think, the best EM residency in the world.”
In a toast at the final banquet, Zink added: “What we are celebrating today is on the backs of people who had it much harder than we do today. It’s not enough to say thanks. We are so indebted to you.”