Mercer Island Reporter
Nancy Auer majored in English and went on to become a teacher and secretary before entering the medical field. Now, she is an emergency physician and the chief medical officer at Swedish Hospital with a 32-year career in medicine. This month, Auer was named to the “Heroes of Emergency Medicine” of the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) for her work as an emergency doctor.
“She is amazing. She is someone who has a lot of energy — very positive, very enthusiastic,” said John Milne, M.D., who has worked with Dr. Auer for six years. “She is very politically savvy; she can walk into a controversial situation and figure out how to negotiate through political landmines to get a result out of a potentially contentious situation.”
“Personally, she is a strong guiding force and source of wisdom through mentorship,” he added. “She … has risen to the highest levels within the professional ranks, within emergency medicine here in Washington, and has been a true visionary leader.”
Auer, now 65, is originally from Chattanooga, Tenn., and has lived on Mercer Island for 28 years. Hints of a future medical career started during her teen years when she volunteered for a Red Cross search and rescue team in Chattanooga. Later, she enrolled at the University of Tennessee Medical School in Memphis, where she completed her residency.
“Emergency medicine is very exciting,” said Auer. “You get to meet so many different people with so many different diagnoses. You see a wide variety of issues … you get a real societal view of all the problems out there.”
Auer’s greatest challenge in the emergency room is connecting quickly with patients.
“When you see the patient in the office over time, you have the opportunity to develop a relationship with that patient,” she explained. “In the emergency room, you have about 30 seconds to connect with that person. People are in an incredible amount of stress, so you have a very short period of time to make them feel that they can entrust their problems to you.”
Auer became the first woman to hold the position of American College of Emergency Physicians president, International Federation of Emergency Medicine president and Swedish Hospital chief of staff. She also has been the president of various other organizations and boards, such as the Washington State Medical Association, and she now chairs the Seattle/King County Disaster Search and Rescue team. In addition, she was the recipient of the John G. Wiegenstein Leadership Award from ACEP in 2001.
Auer views the emergency room as “the interface between society and the rest of medicine.”
“I’ve had the opportunity over my career to find out all the things that need fixing in our approach and care,” she said. “I hope to continue community involvement in working with those issues in the future.”