My past few weeks have been completely infested with coronavirus. I am an emergency physician, so the specter of that spiky ball is behind every door I open, lurking in every nasopharynx and whiff of flatus. I serve on several national level emergency medicine committees, and so have been sorting through hundreds of emails per day with the latest solid research and wild conjecture about heme dissociation and antibodies and N95s. I’ve been struggling to filter through the deluge of information, rescuing the useful pieces and throwing them on the shore of my hospital’s committees for use in our policies.

I wear a bracelet on my left wrist. It’s a terrible fashion choice. It used to be red, made out of thin metal. The red has now faded to just an occasional suggestion, but you can faintly make out the words on the band: SSGT Warren Newton. I have worn this band since 2000, over 20 years of a forgotten hero’s legacy. It’s a POW/MIA bracelet, carrying the name of an American warrior who never came home. I have worn it on my left wrist, just down from my watch, for these many years. It has never come off.

Blurry images taken through a ziploc bag to protect my phone.


There are moments in life that serve as a dividing line. These instants sharply incise our worlds into before and after, the then and the now. Moments shimmer like a crystalline barrier, allowing you to see so clearly through to what was, but that past is just out of reach. You can only run your fingers down the wall as you wave goodbye to the life that once was yours.

Often, these flashbulb moments are tragic, debris crumbling around your feet. Words confirm your worst fears, and you learn that…

Some of the greatest memories of life start out as really dumb ideas. Over the past five days, I’ve had to try to explain how this all started to a bunch of curious strangers, and every time I detail the origins, it still sounds ridiculous.

“I’m part of a group of 10 women who are all doctors and ride horses. We met on the internet and have never seen each other in real life, but we all decided to fly from our crevices of the country out here to Arizona to come to a dude ranch.” Flat stares, and a…

I remember the day I first met you. It was a quiet Sunday, early in the morning. I heard a commotion out by the check in desk, and your mom’s scream: “My baby’s not breathing!” The first time I saw you was in your mom’s arms. Heartbreakingly, you weren’t snuggled like a baby should be, or even limp. Your tiny body was twitching, seizing, curling up in the all too recognizable form of a massive head injury.

We rushed you to our trauma room, and the entire hospital came to help you. In moments, I had every hand available, every…

Lecturing at ACEP’s Scientific Assembly 2018

The American College of Emergency Physicians’ New Speaker Forum at Scientific Assembly fills up within hours every year when the call for submissions is released, and many aspiring speakers are discouraged not to get one of those coveted slots. However, you can build your speaking reputation and make it to medicine’s biggest stages through other pathways.

Brand Yourself

If you are interested in speaking at ACEP or other conferences, it’s important to spend some time thinking about what you would like to build as your personal brand. Are you fellowship trained? …

by Torree McGowan, MD, FACEP

The question comes again, this time from a distant relative from across the table at Olive Garden. “You went to Iraq, right? Was it hard?” Over breadsticks and salad, I pause, wondering how to answer correctly. You’d think I’d have something rehearsed; every time my service comes up, this inevitable question follows.

I look into eyes eager for a Clint Eastwood tale of guts and glory. Christmas music fades into the background as I drop my gaze to the table.

I think back, thousands of miles, hundreds of nightmares ago. I start to mentally correct…

Torree McGowan

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