CO ACEP President’s Corner – February 2024

Rebecca Kornas, MD, FACEP
President-Elect CO ACEP

My name is Rebecca Kornas, and I currently work with US Acute Care Services where I serve as the Medical Director of AdventHealth Avista. I am honored and excited to be the next president of Colorado ACEP. For those of you that don’t know me well, I want to give you a little insight into who I am and my values.

I am the kind of person who can’t stay on the sidelines and watch as a problem worsens. Whether that be in a busy emergency department or a chaotic legislature. I seek out the key stakeholders and those who are more well versed in the subject than myself and try to determine if there is a better way to approach the situation, effectively. I get involved with the best of intentions to try and influence change in a proactive manner. Most times when this is successful, it involves developing relationships and collaboration with a diverse team. I am a big believer in the power of education, learning and then empowering my team.

Through a leadership development program within my company, USACS, Scholars, I was first able to attend the ACEP Leadership and Advocacy conference in 2019 and while there I got my first deep dive into the world of advocacy in emergency medicine and how passionate those who choose to stay involved in this aspect of our profession can be. I was hooked. Via one of my mentors, Chris Johnston, I heard about the Colorado ACEP Leadership and Advocacy Fellowship and served as the fellow in 2020, and I haven’t looked back since, serving as a board member, the treasurer, president-elect and now as your president.

Recently, people have been asking me about my hobbies. As a transplant from Michigan via Hennepin County EM training in Minneapolis, I like many Coloradans espouse the hobbies of hiking and skiing, reading with children, playing this board game Wingspan with my husband, the Nuggets and I have also started including trying to make Emergency Medicine better.

I believe that if you see something, most times (tact is key, honestly, still working on that) you should say something and if you aren’t part of the solution that you are part of the precipitate. Too many good people develop a learned helplessness and apathy that they can’t change the system, so why even try. I along with the leadership team at Colorado ACEP are trying to as Ghandi put it “Be the change you want to see in the world” and help to advance the profession of emergency medicine.

If you have been around the world of politics or advocacy for a while you will recognize a trope that is invoked by many, “This Is the Most Important election of our lives, the most important legislative session, the most important era.” I suspect that is said because it is the one that most imminently touches our day-to-day lives and can change our foregone expectations and upcoming reality.

This legislative session is going to be a doozie.

I am Galvanized to work with our board, leadership team, and all of you to continue to make emergency medicine in the state of Colorado the best it can be.

I intend to continue the fantastic work that Dr. Engeln has done developing and growing our November CME conference, and the leadership symposium that Dr. Dhaliwal initiated in the last couple of years. These are excellent programs that have drawn national leaders in emergency medicine to share their expertise in Pipeline development with Dr Aisha Terry our national ACEP president, team development with Dr. Chris Kang immediate past president and so many more. I believe that with your help and engagement, these will continue to snowball and lead to excellent opportunities for our Colorado team of EM physicians to learn and grow.

One of my focuses will be on continually trying to build our chapter and our bench of team members. I think this starts with focusing on intentionally fostering a better pipeline of individuals involved from medical school into residency and fellowship. Through the leadership of Dr Engeln, we have formed some strong ties with the Denver Health residency and with Dr Nordenholtz on our board we are building our connections with the University Anschutz campus. In this vein, we have deliberately made our meetings more accessible to the residents by moving our meetings from Wednesdays (when they have conference) to Thursdays. We have also partnered with Gannon Sungar, the Denver Health Program Director, toward developing and hopefully implementing an advocacy day when some of the leaders of Colorado ACEP can present at a Denver Health education day to provide background on what it means to be an advocate and how to effectively tell your story to legislators to help them understand what is truly going on in our emergency departments with our patients and with their constituents and how they can be a positive force to change this.

It is important for all of us to realize that we are already advocates. We act as advocates each time we call a hand consultant saying that a patient needs them to come in and evaluate a serious infection. Each time we call to admit a patient, each time we reach out to case management to assist with home health or subacute facility placement, we are advocating for what we think is right for our patients. Advocacy with Colorado ACEP is just taking that to the next level. I want to empower all our members to show up at the capital and tell your story. It is something we can all do, and I am happy to work with any of you to foster this skill and your confidence to take the next step of coming down and advocating to our legislators to make Emergency Medicine in the state of Colorado better.

My other focus this year, which dovetails with Dr. McCormick’s (who was given the Meritorious Service Award this year) work, is to improve the level of pediatric emergency readiness and care in our state.  Mostly by promoting the resources that we already have at our fingertips if we just know where to reach. Much of pediatric readiness is a matter of beginning to intentionally pay attention to how we are approaching the care of these patients, first by identifying a physician and nursing Pediatric emergency care coordinator to lead their ED team’s training and quality improvement projects focused on our tiniest patients, then updating equipment and best practice pediatrics policies. The simple act of measurement increases motivation to perform. Many of our community emergency medicine departments, Swedish and North Suburban to name a couple, are already moving the needle toward more excellent pediatric care in their departments and others in AdventHealth and CommonSpirit are actively engaging in this process, as well. I look forward to partnering with the team at EMSC and Dr McCormick on this statewide focus on peds readiness.

I am curious what this year will bring and am inspired to continue to partner with Dr Engeln, Dr Dhaliwal, Dr. Edgerley-Gibb, and our board as well as all of you moving forward. I think that we have a lot of potential to continue to improve emergency medicine in our state. All of us. Together.