about Mark Jaben
Way back when, undergraduate school took me to Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia and medical school at the University of Miami, Florida. After a rotating internship year at Emanuel Hospital in Portland, Oregon, I completed an emergency medicine residency at what was then called University Hospital of Jacksonville, now UF Health Jacksonville.
I have spent my working career, more than 37 years of it, as an emergency physician in a variety of settings in the United States and in New Zealand. I’ve spent time volunteering in Haiti, Honduras, and Bolivia as well.
I was a member of an independent emergency medicine group for more than 20 years, and as is true for any small business, this meant wearing a lot of different hats: managing partner, associate director, and EMS medical director. It also meant intersecting and interacting with everyone in the institution, for the ED is the one place in any hospital where you cross pollinate with each and every other person whether it's the other doctors, nurses, support staff, janitors, or the administrators- everyone, everyday.
After that, I moved on to locums and independent work. For 13 years, active clinical practice, improvement coaching, and, most recently, coaching and supporting physicians in the midst of burnout have occupied my professional time, not to mention the blood, sweat and tears that go into writing a book. And for the past 3 years, I have been the medical director for my county health department, a role I took on in BC- before covid- only to see a one hour a week job turn into, well, a whole lot more.
I have worked in perhaps the most complex, complicated, and conflicted bureaucracy in the world- healthcare- in the one place that forms the intersection of all that is great and some that is not so good- the emergency department. If ever there was the place to encounter the full range of human experience….on a daily basis…. to reinforce and reaffirm all there is to life, that place is surely the emergency department- death, poverty, abuse, coping, tears, laughter, hope, life, every slice of life every day. I must say I am a better person for it and we’d each be enriched from it..…as long as you are not overwhelmed by the immense responsibility, the grief, the exhaustion, the beaurocracy, the agendas and as long as you can recharge through the gratitude, the good calls, and the help you provide. And this has all been reinforced throughout covid. We cannot cure everyone, but there are few we cannot help along their way.
Whether a small critical access hospital or a large urban center, non profit or for profit, the ED is the most democratic institution in any society, no matter what part of the world it is in. Whether CEO, worker bee, government official, or homeless parent, when you walk through that door, you are a person with a problem that has now been elevated to the top of your list of concerns. And this has all been reinforced throughout covid.
And if you want to pursue a PhD in human interaction, conflict, resistance, decision making and creativity, then surely the emergency department and public health are the places for you, as they have been for me.
If a person’s life is a journey of discovery, mine began at the age of 10 when I wanted to be a professional baseball player. For a lot of very good reasons, that was not to happen. I was slow, short, and didn't have a very good arm, but I could hit and I could field. I could play third base.
At the age of fifty, I got my chance. I finally made it to the big leagues. My family gave me the gift of a major league fantasy spring training camp. Brooks Robinson, arguably the best third baseman in the history of baseball and my childhood hero, was my manager. We lost in the World Series. I was named rookie of the camp! It’s never too late.
At 16 while working in the family store, I dedicated myself to the proposition that I would never have a Monday through Friday 9-5 job. I chose to become an ER doc. My medical school yearbook page was all about the stories we can tell or would tell.
My first encounter with rivers came while in college, an out of control canoe trip on a flooded river- a journey of survival in the mold of the then newly released movie Deliverance, also in Georgia. It was supposed to take two days. We got to the takeout in 4 hours.
The outdoors turned into a defining and integral part of my life. It’s where and how I met Mary Ann, who taught me to kayak and changed my life in more ways than just that.
They have contained the challenges I undertake, experiences I seek, connections I have made, relationships I've developed with my partner, kids, and friends around me. So many of my stories come from the oceans, rivers, gorges, creeks and mountains I have been fortunate enough to be in, on, and with.
When you read Free The Brain, find yourself among its stories. Learn about others and yourself. Navigate the struggle we call change better than I have. Pass along what you learn, as I hope to do for you.
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