No matter the challenges, Holly Charleton loves everything about emergency medicine.

Dr. Holly Charleton, a specialist in Emergency Medicine, is part of the Trinitas ER’s late shift. When Dr. Charlton is not dedicating her thoughts and energy to the patients who walk through the door of the Emergency Department, she’s likely to be thinking about the doctors and nurses she teams with on her annual trips to Jamaica.     

EDGE: When did you become affiliated with the American West Indian Medical Association?

HC: While I was in training at the Brooklyn Hospital Center. After my residency, I volunteered to participate. Jamaica needs help. Diabetes and high blood pressure are rampant.

There is no Medicaid and there are few private insurance programs to cover healthcare needs. 

EDGE: How are they able to afford basic medical care?

HC: Some of the patients I see have saved up for years just to pay for an ultrasound. Others opt to feed their children instead of buying their meds. I remember one female patient who came in with severe knee pain from her years of field work. When I removed the dirty ace bandage wrapped around the injury, I saw that it was covered with repulsive beige paste and pink sprinkles. Upon closer examination, I realized that the paste was made up of mashed fruit and the sprinkles were mashed up pain pills she had been prescribed. That taught me how much education the Jamaican population needs today and tomorrow.

EDGE: What appeals to you most about emergency medicine, both in Jamaica and here at Trinitas?

HC: That’s easy…saving lives. People come in who are at the brink of a life-or-death situation. It feels good to bring someone back from that brink. I recently had the pleasure to see a cardiac arrest patient I had saved who was back in with a minor injury. He thanked me all over again. It’s rewarding to see a patient leave and live.

EDGE: How have you personally fared through all of Phase I expansion activity?

HC: I’ve been through worse. The construction team was really good at minimizing our inconvenience. We actually managed to function relatively normally throughout.

EDGE: What are some of the logistical and technical components of a top-notch Emergency Room?

HC: Design is really important when you’re dealing with critical patients. They need to be readily visible at all times. All tech equipment should be state-of-the-art, accurate and functioning—especially when it relates to patients’ vital signs.  

EDGE: What led you to specialize in ER medicine?

HC: My mother was a pediatric nurse. She often took me to work with her, so I was always interested in medicine, but the Emergency Room appealed to me even before I went to med school. In the ER, you face a variety of medical challenges involving all possible bodily parts on a daily—or, in my case, nightly—basis. As a result, an ER practitioner needs to develop acuity in order to respond to all those challenges that come up fast and furiously. 

Editor’s Note: Dr. Charleton spoke with editor Chris Gibbs. She told Chris that ER doctors need to know how to decompress during their time off. Dr. Charleton loves to travel and does so often. At home, she hangs out with family and friends. The key is to achieve a complete break from the work environment: “Everyone on staff at Trinitas knows that when you’re off, you’re off-limits.”