Unique Relationship Encourages Future Career in Medicine

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Unique Relationship Encourages Future Career in Medicine

Monday, March 23, 2015

For most teenagers, the summer months, weekends and school breaks are filled with recreation and spending time with friends. Trent Griner’s time is spent a bit differently.

Since 2013, Trent has spent his free days (and some nights) in Archbold’s emergency department working as a junior volunteer. As a rising sophomore, Griner signed up to participate in Archbold’s Junior Volunteer program because he was interested in medicine and thought the program would be a great way to spend time in a hospital and to be exposed to medical careers.

But what started as a normal junior volunteer assignment has evolved. And Griner now finds himself in a unique situation having learned far more than he ever thought possible.

“I’ve learned all about how the hospital and emergency department works,” said Griner. “I’ve learned about many medical conditions and have memorized the treatments for them. I’ve watched Archbold doctors and nurses save lives right in front of me.”

And those experiences, as well as a bond Griner has formed with Archbold emergency medicine physician Clark Connell, MD, are what has led the now Brookwood senior to pursue his true passion—emergency medicine.

“Dr. Connell and I have a unique relationship. He has become a mentor to me during my experience as a junior volunteer,” said Griner. “I have spent over 200 hours in the Archbold ED, and the majority of those hours have been spent working with and learning from Dr. Connell.”

Griner says Dr. Connell uses every opportunity as a teaching moment. And though some of his lessons are simple, like when to wear two pairs of gloves during a trauma assessment, there are times the lessons are a little more complex.

“One night, I worked a night shift—10 p.m. to 7 a.m.—and at 1:30 a.m., Dr. Connell was teaching me how to read an EKG,” said Griner. “He’s also taught me how to read X-rays, MRI’s, and CAT scans and about countless medical conditions and how to treat them.”

Dr. Connell says that when Trent first came to volunteer and shadow in the ER, he was immediately reminded of his past experience, which made him eager to share his prospective with Trent.

“I can relate to Trent, because I was in his same shoes,” said Dr. Connell.  “Like Trent, I decided I wanted to be a physician while in high school.  There were no physicians in my family, and I really didn't have any close connections to any local physicians. Between my first and second year at the University of Georgia, I made some contacts with a few of the emergency medicine physicians here at Archbold, many who are actually still here today.”

Dr. Connell continued, “I was able to shadow the doctors and volunteer in the ER when I came home to Pelham for summer breaks. Their graciousness and willingness to take me in and show me their profession made an impression. That experience confirmed my decision to pursue medicine— specifically emergency medicine—and that was the biggest influence on bringing me to where I am today.  From that time on, I wanted to be an emergency medicine physician at Archbold.”

Griner has learned much from Dr. Connell, but says some of the most important lessons he’s learned include how to handle certain situations that ED doctors encounter, how to maintain a positive work environment in the ED, and how to interact with patients and their families.

“Dr. Connell has truly taught me what it means to be a doctor,” said Griner. “I have watched as the touch of his hand has calmed and silenced an anxious patient who was very scared and concerned about the symptoms she was experiencing. Dr. Connell simply placed his hand on her shoulder as he listened to her breathing. The moment his hand touched her, she stopped talking and became calm. She began to slow her breathing and her heart rate. I have watched this same scene happen again and again.”

Griner said one thing he has really appreciated about his experience at Archbold is that Dr. Connell and the ED staff has exposed him to every aspect of their work.

“I have watched people be healed, and I’ve watched people be brought back to life,” said Griner. “I’ve also observed as resuscitation efforts have ended. But through it all I’ve seen firsthand how the doctors and nurses conduct themselves in a professional and compassionate manner. The Archbold team has given me the privilege of seeing their reality in the hospital for what it truly is, and they’ve taught me how to handle each situation with respect and compassion.”

Dr. Connell said that from his very first day Trent was eager to learn and eager to help. 

“Trent is outgoing, polite, and respectful towards the patients and employees,” said Dr. Connell. “Most importantly, he seems to possess the fortitude and easy-going attitude that are necessary for a long career in medicine, even when things get tough.”

Griner said he’s had many powerful experiences in the Archbold ED, but one particular conversation really stands out in his mind.

“We had a patient once that looked up at me and said, ‘Young man, if you become a doctor like the ones at this hospital, I’ll come see you’,” said Griner. “That really stuck with me.”

Griner will graduate from Brookwood this spring, and he’ll attend Berry College in the fall to study biology with a pre-med concentration and philosophy. From there he hopes to attend the Medical College of Georgia for medical school. And as one of Trent’s biggest fans, Dr. Connell is confident Trent has taken the right steps to accomplish his goals.

“Pursuing a career as a physician is no easy task. After high school, you endure at least eleven more years of training,” said Dr. Connell. “You have to be committed. Most importantly, you have to be sure this is what you want to do. I admire Trent for doing his homework and spending time in the ER.  By seeing firsthand what we do, he can more confidently make his career choice. Many students spend years pursuing medicine, only to find out it's not what they thought.  I think his experience will also provide motivation throughout his higher education. His goal is now more tangible, and it will be a constant reminder of why he has to work hard, study hard, and develop himself into the man he hopes to become.” 

“My volunteer experience at Archbold has certainly encouraged me to one day return to Thomasville to practice medicine in the Archbold ED,” said Griner. “Archbold is a fine institution and it has become such an integral part of my life. It would mean everything to me to be able to return to Archbold one day to work as a doctor and give back to the hospital and physicians who invested so much in me.”

Griner continued, “And to think, all of this started because one day early on in my junior volunteer experience, I walked in to the doctor’s office in the ED and asked Dr. Connell if I could spend some time shadowing him. Dr. Connell has greatly enhanced my experience as a junior volunteer by allowing me to go beyond what I ever thought possible in the way of learning about the area of the hospital I was interested in.”

“I'm proud of Trent, as I know his parents are. They have done a wonderful job raising him,” said Dr. Connell.  “I always tell Trent that he is going to be my boss one day. By the time he's done with training, I'll be ready to cut back a little anyway.  But all joking aside, he's the kind of person I would want taking care of me or my family in the decades to come. “ 

Dr. Connell added, “I'm honored and humbled that Trent considers me to be a mentor. I think the same could be said about any of my colleagues. We have a great group of doctors who care about this community. I think it is awesome that we have someone who wants to pursue a career in medicine and wants return to Thomasville.  Of course I'm biased, but I think there is something special about providing medical care to the people you grew up with. Our patients are our friends and our neighbors.  They are the people we interact with in the community.  It makes caring for the patient personal to each of us. I imagine this will be one of the most rewarding things for Trent when he begins his practice of medicine.”