EMERGENCY ROOM DOCTORS are the subjects of prime-time TV melodramas, the folks who see us on our worst days, and, sometimes, the people who save our lives. But as the number of uninsured residents continues to rise (currently, one in three Oregonians does not have insurance), ER docs also are becoming the only physicians many people see in an entire year. Or two. Or 10. In fact, a 2008 study by OHSU reported that emergency room visits by the uninsured were up by 20 percent since 2003. So today, ER docs aren’t just the heros in adrenaline-inducing dramas (although there’s plenty of that, too); sometimes they’re the first person to tell a patient that his or her heart is failing, or that cancer is on the march. And sometimes theirs is the last voice the patient hears at all. The drama is high, the pressure is intense, and the emotional toll can be hefty. We asked the three emergency medicine physicians on this year’s Top Docs list to tell us what it takes to be an emergency room doctor, what they love about their job, and which patients they’ll never forget. Here are their stories.