Scouring through chemical equations in textbooks, using laboratory instruments to probe the molecular signatures of cancer cells, and preparing for an exam that will encompass over ten subjects from organic chemistry to literary reasoning are all excellent descriptions of my daily life. I’m a fourth-year undergraduate at the University of Minnesota, and I want to become a physician scientist. For students like myself who will be training for many years for highly developed fields, it is important to have a strong foundation in academic coursework and basic research experience before developing expertise in later stages. Yet I also think that during this early phase it is equally critical that we learn how to maintain perspective as to why we’re doing all this in the first place – what motivates us to sacrifice weekends, lose sleep, and constantly push ourselves to learn more. As such, on Friday nights, I let go of all concerns about assignments and immerse myself in the setting I dream of someday helping people in — a setting that is over ten years of training away and yet pervades my every thought and action: I go to Hennepin County Medical Center’s Emergency Stabilization Room.
When someone experiences a dire medical emergency or traumatic injury and they are brought to HCMC, they go to what’s called the “stabilization room.” Most people don’t know that this room exists, but the patients who require it suddenly find they have gained an all-access pass as its guest of honor. Upon entering the stabilization room, located within the emergency department, one first notices partitions dividing the room into quadrants, each with their own bed to accommodate a critical patient, and illuminated by piercing white light. It is not unlike how one might imagine the inside of an alien spaceship to appear. Adorned with an incredible density of state-of-the-art technology, this room is capable of handling every type of emergency procedure imaginable. (more…)