You may be familiar with this scenario: you’re aboard an airplane, filled with anticipation for a much-awaited tropical vacation, when suddenly, the flight attendant’s voice comes over the speaker, “Is there a doctor on board?”. It’s a call you’re hoping someone else would answer, but your identity as an EM doctor is revealed by a fellow passenger. Now, you’re faced with the reality that you’re likely the most qualified individual to handle the situation. In this episode, Andy and Tanner are joined by Christopher Colbert, DO, and Rachel Munn, DO to delve into instances where they have been called to respond to emergencies outside the conventional hospital environment.

While en route to Germany on military orders, Chris found himself in conversation with a fellow passenger, who was also in the military. During their chat, Chris mentioned his profession as a doctor. As fate would have it, shortly after landing, a fellow traveler on the plane experienced a seizure. The aircraft’s crew urgently requested the assistance of a doctor, and Chris was volunteered by his new acquaintance. He immediately inquired if an ambulance had been summoned and used the overhead air masks to supply oxygen to the affected passenger. In this line of work, witnessing grand mal seizures is typical, but to people outside of medicine, it can be quite distressing. Though his ability to provide care to this passenger was limited due to the medical equipment available on the plane, his presence also provided reassurance to the other passengers. His intervention was met with immense gratitude and even earned him a mention in the local newspaper.

The thought of being called upon to play the role of a medical superhero outside of our usual hospital setting can be pretty daunting. It’s almost like being Bruce Wayne and suddenly having to jump into Batman mode while grocery shopping. As emergency medicine physicians, we’re equipped with a profound understanding of the human body and the ability to intervene when people are in distress. It’s a superpower that doesn’t switch off when we step outside the hospital. Even without the Bat Signal, we’re always ready to leap into action. Sometimes we can provide major interventions to stabilize the patient and sometimes all we can do is calm the crowd until EMS arrives. It can be overwhelming, and yes, it might interfere with our off-duty plans, but at the end of the day, what we do is so much more than a job. It is a privilege to have the ability to save lives under the most dramatic or the most mundane circumstances. So next time you’re off-duty and the call for help rings out, remember: this is your moment to put that superpower to use. After all, not all heroes wear capes…some wear stethoscopes. 

Post by Jordan Palmer, OMS-IV

 Thank you for all that you do! If you’ve had a cool emergency or if you’ve managed a cool medical case outside of the hospital, we would love to hear from you! Please email us at or leave a comment below!

About Our Guests:

Christopher Colbert, DO

Assistant Program Director, University of Illinois Emergency Medicine Residency

Rachel Munn, DO 

Assistant Professor, University of Arizona College of Medicine
Associate Medical Director, Northwest Fire District

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Emergencies Outside of the Hospital

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