Dr. Sheldon Stevenson in front of the ER entrance at Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston. He is system chief for emergency medicine for Central Maine Healthcare. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Sheldon Stevenson began his medical career not in medical school but in the back of an ambulance. He was attending Colby College in Waterville at the time — a student and a paramedic. Nearly 20 years later, he’s leading emergency medicine for Central Maine Healthcare in Lewiston.

He started the job this spring . . . just as something called COVID-19 started causing some trouble.

Name: Sheldon Stevenson

Age: 37

Job: System chief for emergency medicine at Central Maine Healthcare

What was it like going from emergency medical services (EMS) to physician? One prepared me for the other. Lots of practical experience gained from EMS work.

Did being in EMS make medical school easier or harder? Absolutely helped make the transition easier. EMS workers are used to seeing ill and injured patients and have practical, real-time solutions to offer. It’s a long way into formal medical training that one acquires those skills.

Why focus on emergency medicine? I like the problem-focused nature of EM. I say there are basically two kinds of emergency medicine patients (often overlapping): those who truly have deranged physiology and need a resuscitation and those who have risky or potentially dangerous complaint and need rapid, targeted evaluation to exclude a serious underlying cause.

Is there a daily adrenaline rush? There are moments of excitement.

What’s it like running an emergency department during a pandemic? I think emergency medicine is suited for this. We tend to adapt well to new problems and figure out solutions. We completely changed our daily workflow over a single week. It wasn’t bump-less, but the entire front line staff jumped in and made it happen.

As a doctor, what concerns you most during COVID-19? Staff safety. Misinformation. Inconsistent leadership, often at odds with our public health infrastructure.

Is it safe to come into the ED with COVID-19 still hanging around? Yes. We have seen more patients suffer (and die) from NOT coming to the ED during this pandemic than we have from patients actually suffering from COVID-19.

How do you protect yourself during the pandemic? The same stuff you do. I wear a mask, I wash my hands. When I’m at work, I do much of the same but with added protections in certain situations. No more neckties in the trauma room.

Most memorable emergency case you’ve ever encountered? We (not I) revived a child who nearly drowned in the Androscoggin River after he had jumped in after his brother. It required a staggering team effort, from EMS, nursing, multiple medical specialties, and Lifeflight. His brother died but the patient walked out of Maine Medical Center later that week. It was at once the most tragic and heartening experience of my career.

What’s one thing emergency medical shows on TV always seem to get wrong? Anything they always get right? I suppose most medical shows demonstrate emergency departments as nothing but chaotic scene after chaotic scene. Fortunately it’s not quite that hectic.

Do you have a favorite medical show? Please tell me it’s “Grey’s Anatomy.” I always liked “ER.” They had a lot of good medical advisement (and Michael Crichton was a physician). I’ll never be as cool as George Clooney, especially as we now enter most of our orders in a computer instead of dramatically shouting them across the trauma room while delivering a baby.

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