Dr. Robert Vissers

Associate Chief Medical Director, Emergency Department Legacy Emanuel Hospital

Image: Daniel Root

Emanuel is a Level 1 trauma center, the only one between Seattle and San Francisco besides OHSU. So we see over 60,000 patients a year; usually the sickest of the sick, not only in Oregon, but from southern Washington, Idaho, even Alaska—although working here is not quite as ultra-dramatic as you see on TV. (It’s funny: when ER first came out, there was that character named Mark with the shaved head and tiny glasses. I looked just like him at the time. And I remember going in to see a lady who didn’t speak great English, and she was like, ‘You are the doctor from ER!’ Honestly, at first I thought she was a psych patient.) Anyway, things can go from calm to chaos in a matter of minutes. Like yesterday. It was pretty normal for an early afternoon, meaning I was handling 10 patients or so. Then we heard on the news that there was a shooting in Tualatin. There were two or three dead. We got at least one victim from that. And then we heard that a school had caught fire, so we prepared the ER, but luckily there were no burn victims. Just like that, we were in the middle of the shit. And you’ve still got to take care of everyone else: lacerations, fevers, pregnancies. It’s a team effort, and our nurses here are just on it. It’s like a backstage pass to life: you won’t believe what people do to themselves and each other. But that’s part of what attracts me to the job. It’s exciting, yet you’re never able to master it. —As told to Bart Blasengame