The UC Davis Medical Center Emergency Department (ED) is like a magnet. Whether it be by helicopter, ambulance or foot, it seems as though the most critically ill and injured patients in the region are all drawn there.
In the midst of all the chaos is David Johns, chief research associate of the Emergency Medicine Research Associate Program (EMRAP). Johns, a senior biological chemistry and molecular biology major, heads a team of undergraduate research associates in screening and identifying eligible ED patients for various clinical research studies.
With daily responsibilities that range from screening patients with everything from congestive heart failure to pulmonary embolism, Johns and his team of EMRAPers have proven to be a valuable asset to the Emergency Medicine team.
1. What is your ultimate career goal, and what brought to you this selection?
I want to specialize in urology or orthopedic surgery. I feel both of these fields are very challenging and offer research areas that can benefit the medical community globally.
2. How has EMRAP helped you in working towards this goal?
Without EMRAP, I would have been in the dark about the vastness and complexity of clinical research. EMRAP also encourages each of its research associates (RAs) to observe medical procedures in the emergency department.… I feel EMRAP helped me understand the bigger picture between practicing medicine and conducting clinical research and how both can go together.
3. How and when did you first become involved with EMRAP?
I first became involved with EMRAP during spring quarter of my junior year. I had discovered EMRAP while I was a volunteering in the UCDMC emergency room. After hearing what research associates did, I knew medical research was a field I wanted to get more involved in.
4. There are many clinical internship programs available on the UC Davis campus. In your opinion, what sets EMRAP apart from these?
I feel the close interaction research associates get with doctors and patients sets EMRAP apart from the typical health care internships. In particular, the weekly EMRAP class gives new research associates the opportunity to hear firsthand the process involved in conducting medical research – from conception to publication – from doctors currently conducting research. Also, during the class, research associates get to learn techniques that are typically only taught to medical students such as how to intubate a dummy, what treatment is available for certain conditions and how to suture a banana.
5. What are your responsibilities as chief RA of EMRAP?
I have a lot of responsibilities that typically require 10 to 15 hours of work per week. Some of these responsibilities include scheduling doctors to lecture for each Monday class meeting, composing the monthly research associate shift schedule for the entire EMRAP team and knowing every detail of the all the EMRAP studies so as to be available if a research associate has a question – even if the research associate is working a midnight to 4 a.m. shift. I also strive to make EMRAP the best internship experience for each and every research associate. As you might have guessed, all this would not be possible without the help of EMRAP’s current vice chief RA, Chris Styles.
6. Having worked in the emergency department for the past couple years, is there a particular memory or incident that sticks out in your mind?
I can vividly recall one instance in which I was enrolling a patient with congestive heart failure. The patient was inflated like the Michelin tire man from the buildup of fluids, and he was extremely short of breath. After having a long conversation with the patient, I realized that not everyone can follow the government’s guidelines to exercise daily and eat healthy. Some individuals, like the patient I talked with, had to work two jobs in order to support his family. This left him with no time to exercise and no money to buy fresh fruits and vegetables. It became clear to me that one program doesn’t fit all, and that more research needs to be done in preventative medicine so that everyone has the chance to stay healthy.
7. How do you hope to continue to work toward your career goals after your tenure as EMRAP chief RA and your UC Davis undergraduate career come to a close?
I hope to use the medical and clinical research knowledge that I have learned as an undergraduate and put it to good use conducting clinical research as a practicing physician, as soon as I graduate from medical school, that is. This way I will not only be able to help the patients I see daily, but hopefully benefit the medical community globally through my research.
8. What is your dream medical school?
I would love to study medicine at UCLA or UCD. Both schools have great doctors and seem to be at the cutting edge of not only patient care but clinical research.
9. What sort of advice can you offer incoming pre-medical first-years entering Davis next fall?
On top of studying hard, they need to get involved in the medical community once they get settled in. Getting involved in the medical community – whether by volunteering at a hospital, working at a clinic or doing research – will help them find their true interest. This way they can get more involved in a specific area that truly interests them, which makes putting in the long hours rewarding.
10. Outside of your responsibilities with EMRAP, what do you do in your free time?
I love being outdoors. I enjoy wakeboarding in the summer and skiing in Tahoe in the winter. I also like to work out since it’s a good way to unwind from all the stress associated with classes and internships.
NIRVAIR KELLEY can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org