What do you do?
I am an attending Emergency Physician and have been for the last 14 years. 13 of the 14 years, I have specialized in working the night shift in the Emergency Department and refer to myself as a nocturnist. My job as an Emergency physician is to care for patients who come to the Emergency Department with a wide variety of ailments ranging from minor to life-threatening problems. As a Board Certified EM doctor, I lead the care team and provide care for emergent and non-emergent pathologies. The care team typically consists of resident doctors, nurses, and emergency technicians. We work as a team to provide excellent care to those that present to us on what is often the worst night of their lives.
Why did you choose this field?
At the age of 8 or 9, there was a burning desire within me to be a doctor. I was not exposed to any doctors beside my pediatrician at this time. We were living in Jamaica, my mother took my words seriously and found validation in my dream which she encouraged with providing me with anatomy books to read. The decision to emigrate to the US was based on the dream of an 8-year-old and materialized when I graduated from SUNY Buffalo School of Medicine in 2002. The road to the realization of my childhood dream was fraught with sacrifice and struggle on the part of myself and my mother. I can't explain how a child with limited exposure to medicine could have to grit and resilience to pursue this goal. All I know is that sometimes what you will become is clear at an early stage.
After entering medical school, everything within me knew that I would become a Forensic Pathologist. So much so that I sought out mentors in the field and shadowed the County Coroner. I remember the words as if they were spoken yesterday. One day, after I had assisted the Coroner with an autopsy, he turned to me and said, "Charmaine, you have a gift that is not to be spent on the dead. You should pursue working with the living". At first, I was disappointed and upset because after all, no one tells me what I cannot do. Serendipity stepped in and I was paired with an Emergency doctor for my Introduction to Clinical Medicine class. There I was thrown into the Emergency Department learning how to interview patients and examine patients and I loved it!
I loved the pace, variety, and tempo of the ED. I forced myself to keep an open mind as I did my specialty rotations during the third year of medical school. In the end, I like to say that EM chose me and 17 years later (3 years of residency training and 14 years of practice) it is undoubtedly a right pairing. There have been rough spots along the way and all have led to the current paradigm of my practice. I am a nocturnist EM doctor who also is a public speaker on topics of burnout, night shift life, physician entrepreneurship, and facing fear. After hitting a particularly rough spot, I found that pursuing passions outside of medicine replenishes my joy in medicine. My passion pursuits include fitness, podcasting, public speaking, and writing.
What do you look at and think, "I wish younger me would have known this was possible"?
To date, I would say that being a wife to an incredible entrepreneurial scientist, mother of three incredible children, three-time author (2 of the books are Amazon bestsellers, the third to be released later this year), entrepreneur, public speaker, named MCEP EM Physician of the Year 2019, teacher, and podcaster have been amazing accomplishments. When I was younger, my focus was on getting into and completing medical school, never did I think that there were possibilities beyond that singular goal. I would tell younger me that I should not be afraid to think big and outside of the box, fail often and fast, get back up and learn from each failure.
Why do you love working in STEM?
I love being a physician because every day I get to connect with other humans and help them. Medicine is a unique field that affords an incredible impact on not only the patient in front of you but the community through engagement in community activities and the use of social media. I wake up and look forward to making a difference in the lives of those that I encounter in the ED.
Best advice for next generation?
Know that you are worthy. Don't let anyone tell you that you cannot do it, aren't smart enough or aren't good enough. Know that you can do and be whomever or whatever you want to be. If you don't see what you want available then be empowered to create your path.
Embrace failure not as a termination point but as a fulcrum for learning and growth. It is not how many times you fall down but the fact that you get back up each time. Don't let anyone stand in the way of pursuing your dreams. Surround yourself with peers, mentors, sponsors who are propelling you toward your dream and block out the naysayers.
Inspo quote / fun fact / role model
Embrace failure not as a termination point but as a fulcrum for learning and growth.