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An Emergency Physician Reflects on Gratitude, Strength, and Education on the COVID-19 Front Lines

Erin Brennan, MD, MPH
American Board of Emergency Medicine
Specialty: Emergency Medicine
Subspecialty: Emergency Medical Services

When asked to describe the three weeks she spent during the COVID-19 surge in her busy Detroit hospital’s emergency department, Erin Brennan, MD, MPH, is at a momentary loss for adequate words.

While she would like to accurately describe the horror and seemingly impossible odds she and her team faced, she feels strongly about acknowledging the inspiring strength and generosity she witnessed.

Day One
“On day one, as I intubated the first of my many patients with COVID-19, our team’s respiratory therapist stood beside me, unwavering,” said Dr. Brennan. “We knew the patient’s chances of survival were slim, and we were unable to reach her son to allow them to talk one last time. It was heartbreaking. The therapist held our patient’s hand while helping me hold it together long enough to do what I could.”

Emergency physicians are at the forefront in the battle against COVID-19 globally and have generously shared their evolving knowledge with others to benefit patients. In particular, Dr. Brennan credits the team at Emergency Medicine Reviews and Perspectives (EM: RAP) a monthly audio lecture series for emergency medical practitioners, for doing their part to help the emergency medicine community stay current during the pandemic. “EM: RAP really came through with outstanding education, at light speed, to help us all through these uncharted waters.”

Professional and Personal Reflections
Reflecting on the time she spent caring for patients with COVID-19, Dr. Brennan says, “I am profoundly grateful for my training in emergency medicine and for the opportunity to be able to respond to this crisis.”

This life-changing experience has also helped Dr. Brennan reframe her personal life. “As the dust has started to settle, I am acutely aware of what is most important in life and have recommitted to letting go of the things that are no longer serving me.”

Certified by the American Board of Emergency Medicine, Dr. Brennan serves as the Medical Director of the Department of Emergency Medicine for Sinai-Grace Hospital, the sole hospital serving northwest Detroit. Its level-II certified emergency department treats more than 100,000 patients each year, making it the city’s busiest.

(Published: June 10, 2020)

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