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Sullivan’s Travels In Emergency Care

By Katherine Dvorak

As an EMT in college, Natalie Sullivan, MD, would rush her patients through the outer doors of the ambulance bay and into the bright lights of the emergency room, but from there she could go no further. Each time, her desire to stay with the patient was strong — she couldn’t shake the urge to play a greater role in their care.
Now, Sullivan waits on the other side of those doors, ready to care for any patient who comes into the emergency room at the George Washington University (GW) Hospital.

Portrait of Doctor Natalie Sullivan

“I was always wondering about the next step, and I always wanted to be a part of the patients’ continuing care … to help see them through,” says Sullivan, an emergency medicine resident at the GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences.

Sullivan says her experience at GW so far has been both humbling and exciting. Finding a diagnosis and bonding with patients and their families during a difficult time is very rewarding, she says.

But often there are struggles, too. “Sometimes it’s a really difficult case, but it’s also a very formative experience and helps you become a better doctor,” she says.

The Massachusetts native names her mother, a nurse practitioner, as an influence on her career path.

“Like many doctors, from a young age I knew I was interested in medicine,” she says. “And because I had that interest young, I started seeking different experiences that had to do with medical care.”

Those experiences included early involvement with emergency care. In addition to volunteering as an EMT in college, Sullivan took a year off between her undergraduate degree and medical school at Tufts University to work as an emergency department technician.

Even when she’s not in scrubs, Sullivan is still working, serving as a co-medical director for the GW Emergency Medical Response Group (EMeRG), a student-run and student-operated volunteer EMS agency on the Foggy Bottom Campus.

“It’s something I’m really passionate about. EMeRG is a group of young people who are enthusiastic about medicine. I really enjoy working with a group that’s so committed to what they’re doing and … it’s so much fun to show up and do whatever they need me to do,” she says.

That dedication to the field has been noticed by the SMHS Department of Emergency Medicine, whose faculty awarded Sullivan the “Intern of the Year” award over the summer. When asked about the award, she remains modest, praising her “outstanding and hardworking” fellow interns and showing appreciation for the guidance she receives from the faculty.

“I really appreciate their support,” Sullivan says. “It’s motivated me to keep working hard and to live up to the expectations they have.”