Please join me in congratulating Dr Jeff Herrala, the 2023 ACEP-EMRA National Clinical Pathologic Conference Competition Resident Runner Up! For those not familiar with the EM CPC, this is an annual national competition that began last November with EM residency programs from across the country submitting mystery cases.
Over 120 programs entered cases into the competition, and the top 72 were selected for presentation at the semi-finals round held in person this past March at the Council of Residency Directors (CORD-EM) in Las Vegas. Faculty from competitor programs endeavor to solve the case the resident presents to them. These presentations are actual patient cases from the resident’s residency program. They are typically classic presentations of rare diseases or atypical presentations of common diseases. The winners of each semi-final division move to the national final competition.
Jeff won his division in a field of 12 competing residency programs in Las Vegas, advancing to the National Finals held yesterday at the American College of Emergency Physicians currently underway in Philadelphia. Jeff expertly presented a case of Jakob-Creutzfeld Disease suspected and worked up in station 3 of the Highland ED based on the dramatic presentation of a young man with a rapidly declining neurologic condition. This is literally a one-in-a-million disease where the confirmatory laboratory testing was ultimately completed at the Cleveland Clinic (thank you Dr Valerie Ng!). Jeff and fellow residents were able to mobilize resources to pursue this condition which could easily have been missed as it is so very rare.
Jeff’s presentation was remarkable not only for the medicine he taught the audience, but the humanity and empathy evident in the care. His teaching points were not just around this exceedingly rare diagnosis, but in the importance of securing wrap-around care for the patient and his family. Medicine can all too often be cold, scientific and transactional. The system can be so challenging to navigate and we can forget that these diseases are happening in a very real person who needs our support beyond a simple visit to the ED. The kindness we manifest is just as important as the tests we choose to order. Jeff’s presentation was a master class in what it means to care for the whole patient, think beyond the initial disposition, and mobilize the many members of the healthcare team.
Lastly, thanks to the entire Highland EM Class of 2024 and associate PD Gabe Sudario who were there to cheer on Jeff. Our collective pride was very much on display. Many thanks to everyone who supported Jeff in preparation for this competition and to the small army of clinicians and staff from EM, Internal Medicine, Neurology, Radiology, Laboratory/Pathology, Medical Social Work, Nursing, and Physician Therapy who were part of this patient’s journey. It takes a village, and our village was very much on display on the national stage in Philadelphia yesterday!
Again, congratulations Jeff!
With much pride,
Dr. Charlotte Wills
Chair, Department of Emergency Medicine