They may have celebrated their milestone anniversaries with a dinosaur cake, but after 20 years serving in the Emergency Department at Riley Hospital for Children, the contributions of Susan Hoffert, MD, FAAP, and Jennifer Kersey, MD, FAAP, are far from extinct.
Drs. Hoffert and Kersey started in the Riley Emergency Department in the same month in 2001 and were among the first staff physicians in the department. They recently answered some questions about what attracted them to a career in emergency medicine, their experience at Riley and their most memorable moments from the past 20 years of serving in the Riley ED.
What inspired you to become a doctor – and to specialize in emergency medicine?
Dr. Hoffert: I left a PhD program in astrophysics when working on physics 24/7 became very unsatisfying. I wanted to pursue something where I applied science directly to help others, and medicine seemed an obvious choice.
When I started my residency at Riley, there were no staff physicians in the ED. We learned how to think and act quickly and have confidence in our knowledge and abilities. I really enjoyed and thrived on those challenges and the inherent autonomy. I also loved the wide variety of cases and acuity levels.
Dr. Kersey: I actually started out intending to major in business. After one semester of college-level economics, I quickly realized that the people I met in my science classes were more “my people.” Although my dad was a chemistry major with an MBA, and my mom was an RN, I’d never actually entertained the idea of being a physician until college. I remember calling my parents during my second semester and telling them “I’m changing my major, and I’m going to medical school.” They couldn’t have been more surprised. I’ve never looked back. I love being a physician and taking care of children.
I became attracted to a career in emergency medicine after I finished my pediatrics training. I loved the scheduling flexibility that EM provides. I enjoy the excitement of the unknown, and it has kept me fresh after 20 years.
What has kept you at Riley for so many years?
Dr. Hoffert: Dr. Kersey and I were among the first staff physicians in the Riley ED, and Riley has provided a unique set of opportunities. As we are the largest children's hospital and the only Level 1 Pediatric Trauma Center in the state, I couldn't do this work anywhere else in Indiana.
Dr. Kersey: I have stayed at Riley because it is my second home. I love my colleagues as if they were my family. I love the collaboration between disciplines, and the smiles of the kids in the Riley wagons. Some of my patients and their families have become lifelong friends.
As you reflect on 20 years at Riley, what are some of the memories or personal experiences that stand out?
Dr. Hoffert: There are too many memories to list. One that stands out is when I worked the night after the 9/11 attacks. It was a little surreal, and the whole country was in shock. There was a sense of insecurity and speculation that hospitals would be attacked. At that time, there wasn't a unified, structured security network, and it felt like we (the ED staff) would be on our own to deal with any such emergency as best we could.
Dr. Kersey: This job has been rewarding, exhilarating, terrifying and soul crushing all at the same time. I have witnessed births and deaths and everything in between. I have cherished my career at Riley and know that I still have more to contribute.