As an emergency physician, Kristin Harkin, MD, FACEP, cannot predict what each day in the ED will bring. However, last month during a routine shift, Dr. Harkin experienced one of the biggest surprises of her career when she looked up from her central work station to spot a gold plaque newly-affixed to the opposite wall with her name prominently displayed.
Upon seeing her name, a colleague handed Harkin a letter written by Greenwich Hospital President Diane Kelly explaining that a generous gift was given in the physician’s honor to establish an Emergency Department Education Fund. A grateful patient’s family, who Harkin had attended, made the gift in recognition of the outstanding care received. The donor requested that the plaque be placed in a location impossible for the doctor to miss.
“It was a phenomenal surprise,” Harkin said. “It was one of the most wonderful things that has ever happened to me.”
The fact that the gift was directed toward the furtherance of education for Greenwich Hospital’s Emergency Department staff is something that touched Harkin deeply. “I come from a family of educators. I am the only physician. Education was something that I was always taught could never be taken away from me. So I appreciate that this family created the fund for something that is near and dear to my heart,” she said.
Emergency medicine is a specialty that Harkin was drawn to as a young girl. Her father was diagnosed with brain cancer at the age of 30, and while he was cared for at home, Harkin accompanied her father to many trips to the Emergency Department. “He was the inspiration behind me becoming a doctor. Going through that journey together taught me so much,” she said.
While Harkin has worked in Greenwich Hospital’s ED for 11 years, the physician’s interest in emergency medicine led her to volunteer on an ambulance when she was merely 14. She eventually became an EMT and continued to work full time nights for New York City’s Emergency Medical Services throughout college and medical school. Upon completion of her residency, she was recruited by Harvard Medical School to oversee the development and implementation of emergency medicine curriculum for students and residents. Harkin completed a Teaching Fellowship in medical education in emergency medicine.
The Emergency Department Education Fund created in Harkin’s honor will help advance the careers of Greenwich Hospital’s ED staff through education and training tailored to their particular goals for professional advancement. This includes funding for attendance and/or participation in professional conferences, and scholarships to defray tuition costs at degree-granting institutes at the associate, bachelor and graduate levels.
“I was so touched that the donor chose to focus on education. Investing in someone’s education really will better health care delivery for everyone. That is truly priceless, and will help so many lives in ways we may never know,” Harkin said.