While working in emergency medicine (EM) at Brown, Rhode Island Hospital, and The Miriam Hospital, East Sider Laura McPeake, MD, has seen a lot of action – which is a good thing, if you’re a doctor who’s passionate about your practice. Following undergraduate at Georgetown and medical school in New York, the Maine native landed a residency at Brown that is “really well-known nationwide for emergency medicine in particular” says McPeake, who currently serves as Director of the Physician Wellness Program at Brown Emergency Medicine.
Providence is sought-after by EM students and professionals due to its diverse patient population and interconnected hospital system. “Particularly for EM, you want a good balance of medical—heart attacks, strokes, etc. – and also trauma experience,” says McPeake. Because Rhode Island Hospital and Miriam Hospital are so close to each other, “basically people in and around Providence all go to these hospitals.”
New York, by comparison, is “very fragmented.” Different socioeconomic tiers go to different hospitals or specialty hospitals, making things segregated; Boston, too, has a “divided patient population,” says McPeake.
“With Providence’s size, and as a very dynamic city, there’s a large patient population,” she adds. “It’s really high volume, and as a resident you want that, because you get to see all walks of life.” A resident who trains in such an environment leaves “very prepared for all types of medical emergencies.”
Being a medical professional is fraught with stress and challenges, especially when coping with patient death, which is prevalent during third year of residency. “How do we process and cope with that?” asks McPeake. “How can we find meaning in that tragedy? Otherwise your job becomes pretty overwhelming.”
McPeake brings a unique, long-term passion to her work: meditation. She had practiced it many years before starting medical school and was a founding member of a meditation center in Washington, D.C., during college.
She found her meditative practice to be intrinsic to self-care and promoting motivation and productivity, and she decided to share those with other medical professionals, which led to her “relatively new” current program position. She recently completed a master’s degree in Behavioral and Social Health Sciences through Brown’s School of Public Health, which emphasized “seeing physicians as a public health population” due to the burnout they often experience – especially in EM.
She now lectures at yearly retreats for supervising physicians and is the “go-to person” to help influence administrative decisions from the viewpoint of physician wellness, working at the national level through Brown and also with Lifespan.
McPeake lives with her young son on East Manning Street, which she calls a “wonderful neighborhood” with nearby favorite stops like Silver Star Bakery, Tallulah’s, and the Atisha Kadampa Buddhist Center, where she teaches Thursday lunchtime meditation classes. She loves that she can easily ride her bike to both Miriam and Rhode Island hospitals.
Providence has “allowed me to flourish in all these different ways that I don’t know I would have been able to do in either a bigger or smaller city,” says McPeake.