EM Collective Wisdom: John Ma

Author: John Ma, MD (Professor and Chair, Department of Emergency Medicine, Oregon Health & Science University) // Edited by: Alex Koyfman, MD (@EMHighAK) and Brit Long, MD (@long_brit)

1) Why still Emergency Medicine?

Our specialty continues to infuse innovation into the House of Medicine by enhancing patient safety, improving quality of care, leading organizations, and providing excellent value for board certification.

2) Most impactful case. 

In 1991, as a second-year resident, I performed a FAST exam (before it was even given that acronym) on a patient who had sustained a stab wound to the midepigastrium. We diagnosed cardiac tamponade, performed a pericardiocentesis, and transported the patient to the OR in less than 15 minutes. The patient walked out of the hospital a few days later. It hammered home the efficacy of point-of-care ultrasonography.

3) Most important career decision leading to satisfaction.

I followed my passion for faculty development. Every faculty member has unique professional and personal goals, and it has been extremely rewarding to assist individual faculty members achieve their goals.

4) What does future of EM look like?

EM will face challenges with value-based care and value-based compensation. The environment will reward institutions and individual providers who rely on clinical judgment and systems-based care instead of leaning so heavily on diagnostic tests. I am confident that EM will lead the way and be part of the solution.

5) Greatest achievement / why giving back is important.

Mentoring faculty and positioning them to become future leaders, both at an institutional and national level. I’ve positioned several junior faculty members to play key leadership roles in our department because I’m not afraid to start a rookie quarterback; you’ve got to coach them up. In turn, I’ve seen them pay it forward by helping their colleagues.

6) Favorite failure.

As a junior faculty member, I once publicly embarrassed a very senior and well-respected radiologist because he challenged the concept of non-radiologists using point-of-care ultrasound in clinical practice. This is something I have regretted for over 20 years. We may have professional disagreements, but there are ways of making your point without having to publicly humiliate anyone.

7) One thing you would change about our field.

I would encourage our field to find systems-based methods to decrease the number of interruptions that clinicians deal with. It is stunning the number of times we get interrupted when we work clinically. It poses a serious threat to patient safety.

8) Something that you love that has indirectly impacted your EM career.

Journalism. My pre-healthcare career was in sports writing, and I worked as a journalist for 5 years. Those skills have helped me tremendously as a clinician and academician.


3 people you’d like to see fill this out

1) Craig Newgard

2) Bill Barsan

3) Don Yealy


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