Ernest Wang, MD
Clinical Assistant Professor, NorthShore University HealthSystem
Academic Director, Center for Simulation Technology & Academic Research (CSTAR)
Associate Program Director, University of Chicago EM Residency

I’ve been writing several “Faculty Spotlights” to feature some really amazing EM faculty members. It has dawned on me that a much more appropriate name for the series is “Faculty Hero”.

I have known Ernie Wang for many years now way back to when we were both on the SAEM Undergraduate Education Committee (which is now the CDEM Academy). I’ve been an admirer of all the amazing work that he’s done in the past several years. In fact, there are so many things that I’d like to highlight that this post is divided into 2 parts. The second part will be posted next Tuesday.

Ernie, what’s your academic niche in EM?

My main academic niche is simulation-based medical education. And I have to confess that I came about it mostly by serendipity.

My academic career was really an unplanned event and I took the “bent-arrow” route to it. I still consider myself a clinician first, an educator second, and an academician third because I really enjoy taking care of patients, doing the “work” of emergency medicine, and working side by side with residents and students in the ED. I spent my first three years working clinically exclusively. Then I was asked to be the associate medical student clerkship director, did that for two years, then took over for our site as the associate program director for the EM residency.

Somewhere about that time, I was introduced to simulation as a result of working with John Vozenilek at NorthShore. Voz invited Jim Gordon to come to NorthShore to give a grand rounds on this “new” teaching modality called “simulation” and really turned us on to the possibilities that sim could provide for our students and residents. I then went to SAEM to a simulation workshop conducted by members of the nascent SAEM simulation interest group.

I distinctly remember Steve McLaughlin giving a compelling talk about the strengths of simulation. There was a subsequent demonstration which in which I, along with several others, volunteered to be be in the hot seat. We went into the sim and proceeded to kill the patient in expert fashion. I was convinced at that point that this was going to be a cool way to teach and train.

So how are you involved with simulation now?

I have been active with the simulation lab at the Center for Simulation Technology and Academic Research (CSTAR) since 2003. As the current academic director of CSTAR, my main educational activities involve the provision of simulation-based experiential learning for medical students (originally from Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and, since 2009, the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine), residents, nursing, and pre-hospital providers, through our various programs at the Evanston simulation center and the Highland Park simulation center.

Our medical student program is 2-3 hour weekly simulation experience overviewing code resuscitation and management of fundamental emergent scenarios. Our resident simulation program is based on a modular curriculum consisting of procedural training, pediatric scenarios, medical and surgical scenarios, OB/GYN and trauma scenarios. We incorporate core competency learning objectives (particularly systems-based practice issues) into the cases which are often drawn from real cases in the ED.

While the medical students and resident simulation education comprises a majority of our educational programs, we are rapidly developing a robust nursing training program entitled “The First 5 Minutes” where we train nurses to recognize and provide immediate treatment for the acutely decompensated patient. The goal is to provide this program to all the medical and surgical nurses within all the NorthShore hospitals. The foci of the program involves improving situational awareness of decompensating patients, promoting effective communication, and enhancing patient safety. We have recently begun implementing programs to train the Lake County Health Department medical staff on the management of acute emergencies in the office setting. In addition we have initiated outreach programs with our local high school, Highland Park Hospital, providing simulation based medical exposure to Hispanic students to promote careers in the medical field.


Wow Ernie, I had no idea that you were teaching so many different learners! You also have many “virtual learners”. I’ve seen your simulation-based educational videos. They are really professional-looking and extremely valuable teaching tools.

Our academic productivity at CSTAR has been a fruitful collaboration. Over the past five years, we have collectively published 24 peer-reviewed original works in the field of simulation-based education. The variety really has made it interesting – we have done some original research, participated in multiple consensus publications, reported our innovations in curriculum design and task trainer product development, and created a collection of procedural videos. We have three more publications that have been accepted and several more in process.

My personal work has focused on development of procedural expertise, simulation case development, curriculum design, and systems-based practice education with simulation.

UofC-tourErnie giving an overview of simulation to incoming medical students from University of Chicago.

You’ve definitely carved a huge academic niche in simulation and technology.

Yes, and I hope I can serve as an example of someone who took a non-traditional approach to academics and has been able to achieve my goals and have fun doing it. You don’t always have to go straight into it right out of residency or work at the big University hospital to be academically productive.

Academia is a wonderful way to supplement your clinical career. It keeps you interested, it keeps you sharp, and it can provide more job satisfaction that will likely prolong your career. Academia is meaningful to me primarily in the context of relationships, mentoring, doing projects with others. You can’t do it alone. You have to rely on and acknowledge those that helped you get where you are and do your part by passing the passion and lessons along to those who will follow you in the next generation.

I can’t agree with you more, Ernie. We need more inspiring leaders in academics like yourself. Keep up the amazing work.

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