There are many leaders in Emergency Medicine but there are few who are true visionaries. Dr. Jim Adams (Chair at Northwestern’s Department of EM) is one such visionary. He’s given numerous lectures, providing sage advice to faculty, residents, and students. I’ve always thought it a shame these aren’t more available to people. So I contacted Jim to learn more about him, his career path, and advice for young emergency physicians. 

One thing that you are known for is your commitment to teaching professionalism and communication skills. How did that come about?

When I was  a resident in 1990 at the University of Pittsburgh, responding to the field on tough EMS calls to back up the medics, there were a lot of troubling cases. Patient who were really sick refused care. Patients at the end of life had paramedics attempt resuscitation, but not because it was warranted or desired, but because state law mandated it.

I worked with Paul Paris, then the Department Chair and also then President of the National Association of EMS Physicians (NAEMSP). I said that NAEMSP needed an ethics committee. Three months later, after checking with the NAEMSP Board, he said, “Ok, you are the chair.” I was a senior resident.

My earliest academic work was to profile ethical dilemmas that occurred in the out of hospital setting. I also worked to ensure that each state and jurisdiction developed laws or guidelines to honor out of hospital DNR orders. My career in ethics was born. The ethics work morphed into professionalism, communication, and related areas that I work in to this day, more than 20 years later.

You mentor so many people around the country, including myself. What have you learned from your mentors?

  • Don’t be lazy.
  • Work hard.
  • Be honest.
  • Do something good.

The residency at Pittsburgh taught me to go– go to the field, move on the ethics problems, contribute energy to good things. It is a high energy place. Mentors, friends, colleagues in the United States Air Force taught the value of ultimate discipline. The military is remarkable. Those are people that I really would trust my life to. The Brigham and Women’s Hospital colleagues and mentors taught the value of thinking more, being more rigorous, becoming deeper, understanding the value of true excellence. I have learned a huge amount from every setting and I am quite aware and grateful for that.

Stay tuned for Part 2 on Thursday… [post]

Michelle Lin, MD
ALiEM Founder and CEO
Professor and Digital Innovation Lab Director
Department of Emergency Medicine
University of California, San Francisco
Michelle Lin, MD


Professor of Emerg Med at UCSF-Zuckerberg SF General. ALiEM Founder @aliemteam #PostitPearls at Bio:
Michelle Lin, MD