Dr. James Shen: Lessons of challenging circumstances
Dr James Shen

Dr. James Shen, an emergency department doctor at Hoag Hospital Irvine, was awarded the Hero With Heart Award on Sept. 11 by the Trauma Intervention Program – a nonprofit whose volunteers assist victims of traumatic incidents – for his continuing compassion and kindness on the job. The Irvine World News caught up with Shen to ask him about the award and his job as a doctor:

What is the most rewarding aspect of working in the emergency department?

The most rewarding aspect of our job is knowing that when you have a tough and challenging case, you absolutely do everything possible for that patient and that they received the best possible care.


Did you always plan to go into medicine?

I think people often choose medicine because of something that they saw or experienced at an early age. It often gives one purpose and helps one make sense out of a difficult experience. For me, it was the tragic death of my older brother when I was 11 years old that motivated me to pursue a career in medicine.


You've said you're humbled by your job. Can you explain?

The job is humbling because you often see people who have been dealt an unfortunate hand and an unfair set of circumstances. It's a constant reminder of my good fortune and of how lucky I am to have my health.


What are some of the greatest challenges you face every day in the emergency department?

The emergency department is a very dynamic and unpredictable environment. You always have to think one step ahead and anticipate the unexpected.


You mention thinking ahead and anticipating the unexpected. What was it like the first time you experienced those challenges? Was it stressful? If so, how did you learn to overcome the stress?

I can remember the first day of residency vividly. It was a much anticipated day that was both stressful and exciting. I remember I was trying to warm up and see some of the more straightforward cases, as the department was slow. Then things started getting busy and my attendings (attending physicians) started assigning me the higher acuity patients. I quickly felt like I was in over my head, but then one of my chiefs pulled me aside and told me that if I wanted to be good at this, I needed to make sure that I put myself in the worst situations possible. That was the best advice I received, and I followed that for the next three years.

To read the original Orange County Register ​article, please click here​