David F.M. Brown, MD, chief of the Department of Emergency Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, was honored as the inaugural incumbent of the MGH Trustees Professorship in Emergency Medicine during a celebration on Oct. 31, 2016, at Harvard Medical School (HMS).
This professorship, which is the first HMS professorship in emergency medicine at Mass General, will provide stable and flexible support to advance Dr. Brown’s research, teaching and clinical care efforts.
“I trained to be an internist but that didn’t feel like the right path after experiencing emergency medicine,” Dr. Brown said.
Dr. Brown first came to Mass General in 1989 as an internal medicine intern but quickly found that the excitement of emergency medicine resonated most with him. “I trained to be an internist but that didn’t feel like the right path after experiencing emergency medicine,” he said. While he found his work in emergency department very rewarding, he acknowledged its challenges over the years: “It wasn’t always easy…there were big changes that needed to be made.”
Dr. Brown was named chief of Emergency Medicine in 2013, succeeding Alasdair Conn, MD, who led the department for 25 years.
Emergency Medicine Initiatives
In 2014, Dr. Brown achieved the rank of full professor at HMS. Under his leadership, first as vice chair and then as chief, a number of successful new protocols and programs were established for Mass General’s emergency department, including the implementation of electronic patient tracking, electronic physician order entry and documentation, the redesign of patient triage and screening, and the establishment of an ED-operated Observation Unit.
“Dr. Brown has made pointed and impactful enhancements to the process of care in the emergency department, which have improved the care and management of patients both at MGH and in the numerous hospitals that have emulated this system,” said Nancy Tarbell, MD, dean for Clinical and Academic Affairs at HMS.
“There’s no room for error,” Dr. Brown says. “Our performance in a disaster must be flawless.“
Peter L. Slavin, MD, president of Mass General, emphasized that Dr. Brown leads one of Mass General’s most challenging services, as emergency department volume has increased 19% since 2011. Mass General’s emergency department handles more than 112,000 patient visits annually, including 6,000 acute psychiatric visits.
The department’s work goes far beyond the Mass General campus with programs like medical simulation, wilderness medicine, global health and disaster medicine.
Becoming A Marathon Team Captain
Following the tragedy of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, Dr. Brown became team captain for Mass General’s Emergency Response Marathon Team, raising funds to support the department’s ability to respond to emergencies on a moment’s notice. Preparing for emergencies takes training and practice, and philanthropy is critical. Time spent training is not reimbursed by insurance companies and often takes place outside of work hours.
“Our staff is truly on the front lines whether it’s a disaster like the marathon bombing, treating a patient with substance abuse disorder or saving someone from a stroke,” Dr. Slavin said.
“There’s no room for error,” Dr. Brown says. “Our performance in a disaster must be flawless. As in football, if one player of the 11 on the field doesn’t do their job, the play fails.”
Dr. Richard Wolfe, chief of Emergency Medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, recalled coming to Mass General in 1994 to build the first residency in emergency medicine at HMS. At that time, Dr. Brown was a young faculty member.
He became a partner in this endeavor, helping build a residency that, to date, has graduated more than 500 emergency medicine specialists. Subsequently, Dr. Wolfe and Dr. Brown became close friends with a shared vision of what emergency medicine could be and ultimately transformed their respective departments into vibrant academic centers.
Tom Brady of Emergency Medicine
“David was with me in the trenches,” Dr. Wolfe said. “He knew what we could be doing and shared our victories day by day.”
“David was with me in the trenches. He knew what we could be doing and shared our victories day by day,” Dr. Wolfe said. “He has been our Tom Brady of emergency medicine.”
An accomplished clinician, scholar, teacher, mentor and administrator, Dr. Brown lectures nationally and internationally on topics related to cardiovascular emergencies, his primary academic interest, and is the author of more than 250 peer-reviewed articles, reviews, and chapters. He has conducted numerous cardiovascular research studies, and his innovative work in the emergency department process redesign has been published and widely cited and emulated. Dr. Brown has also received multiple teaching and mentoring awards, including most recently the 2016 John T Potts MD Faculty Mentoring Award.
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