Delivery of Care

Farewell, Rhode Island

After caring for tens of thousands of Rhode Islanders during her stint in Emergency Medicine, Dr. Elizabeth Goldberg shares her reflections on what it has meant for her to be part of a community

Photo by Stephanie Ewens

Dr. Elizabeth Goldberg, MD, ScM.

By Dr. Elizabeth Goldberg, MD, ScM
Posted 7/25/22
Dr. Elizabeth Goldberg, MD, shares her reflections about the importance of engaging with people in your community as she departs Rhode Island to pursue her career in Colorado.
Will the Alpert Medical School at Brown be willing to share this story with its faculty and students? What resources are available to continue the clinical research Goldberg had been conducting focused on preventing falls in geriatric patients? In seeking to recruit medical residents, how important is it for Brown to emphasize that it welcomes and supports women who are starting families? Does more emphasis need to be placed on the importance of mentoring young scientists and doctors in the pursuit of their careers?
There is often a lot of talk about the importance of place-based health. As Dr. Goldberg shared her experiences working and raising a family in Rhode Island, what came through so strongly was her sense of being a full participant in the community around her – her willingness to engage, her recognition of the importance of sharing and respecting narratives, and her efforts to speak out about public education.
Those qualities of leadership and engagement represent the values that Lifespan and Care New England should seek to look for in choosing the next CEOs of their health system enterprise.

PROVIDENCE – Thirteen years ago, I sat in a small computer lab at Tel Aviv University. I was at the end of a long journey of medical training – four years of pre-medical studies, followed by four years of pre-clinical studies and clinical rotations in medical school – and my fate for the next four years of specialty training would be determined by “The Match.” The Match is a computer algorithm that pairs residency programs with medical students and, simply put, tells you where you will be placed to do your specialty training.

I had interviewed across the country – in Boston, Chicago, and New York City, and upon advice from an advisor in Boston, had also sent my application to Brown University’s Emergency Medicine program. I loved my interview there, and the walkable city known for its arts and culture and good foodie scene seemed to be a great place to start my career as a freshly minted MD.

On the interview day at Brown, one of their current chief residents was pregnant, and it occurred to me that many of my residency interviews were the same with this one exception – how much the programs embraced future families.

You met with current residents the night before and they told you: why they were thriving in their current program; that the workload was manageable; and their learning was well supported. Then the next day you met with residency leadership and faculty and they shared their strengths - the high quality of their clinical teaching, their stellar faculty, and the opportunities that would arise for leadership and career development.

However, not all programs made clear that they would embrace you as a woman if you chose to have children during residency, yet they were all recruiting women between the ages of 24 and 45. It was hard to know if the omission was intentional, or not. When I opened the screen on that hot summer day in Israel and saw “Rhode Island Hospital,” I was elated.

A place to thrive
It’s hard to put into words what living in Rhode Island and working in our emergency departments in Providence has meant to me. I’ve been a resident, chief resident, post-doctoral research fellow, and faculty at Brown. I’ve been able to be both a learner and teacher. I completed my Master of Epidemiology at the Brown School of Public Health in 2017. I also spent several years teaching the “Introduction to Conducting Clinical Research” course to Brown undergraduate students.

Almost all of my academic papers have included students and residents, and the path to getting them to the point of being able to synthesize the existing literature, interpret their own research findings, and put pen to paper was always a long journey fraught with distractions and hardship.

But, usually they prevailed and were proud of the final product – and it helped get them to the next step of their career. And I, as their mentor, felt that it was almost always a valuable team-building endeavor, and the journey – the “productive struggle” – to get that paper written, would teach them that persevering could provide many rewards.

A connection to caring for you
As I close this chapter on Rhode Island and start afresh in Colorado, there are many experiences I look back at fondly. I’ve felt truly honored to care for YOU – I’ve cared for tens of thousands of Rhode Islanders in our ERs. No one loves coming to the hospital, but I’ve tried and sometimes succeeded at giving credibility to what you were feeling, shared in your pain of a new loss, and, in many cases, solved your medical or social problems.

As a geriatric emergency medicine specialist and physician scientist running clinical trials on fall prevention, I’ve had a special connection with many older patients living here, too. Because of the small community we have here, I’ve even sometimes encountered past patients on the street or as they’ve walked by my house as I’ve gardened. One woman still thanks me to this day for caring for her foot injury 10 years ago at the Miriam Hospital and, in the same breath, shares how much she’s enjoyed witnessing my family growing in the past decade.

We now have four children who were born throughout my residency and my faculty career. I like to think they have their own special relationship with Rhode Island. In utero, they’ve witnessed the continuous streams of medical histories and concerns of my patients. They’ve been with me as I’ve resuscitated cardiac arrest patients, provided care to victims of assault, evaluated potential strokes, diagnosed malaria in new immigrants, evacuated peas from young children’s noses, ears, and every other imaginable orifice.

My kids attended our public schools and played with kids in every Providence neighborhood. They’ve watched me serve on our schools' PTO, the school board, and dozens of other academic and hospital committees. Our entire family will carry these experiences with us as we leave Rhode Island.

Thank you for trusting me with your narratives
So, I’m writing to thank you for sharing them with me, trusting me with your narratives and welcoming our family in Providence. I’ll leave you with a thought. You live in a state with many assets, but the most important are the people in your own community. So, when the opportunity arises, say hello, share a meal, be vulnerable about your own challenges, and get civically engaged with your local organizations. It’s through these connections that we will create happier, healthier lives for all of us.

Dr. Elizabeth Goldberg, MD, ScM, has been a frequent contributor to ConvergenceRI. She is joining the University of Colorado Department of Emergency Medicine in the fall.


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