WMed Common Read will explore a year in the life of a Chicago ER doctor during the COVID-19 pandemic

The Emergency by Thomas Fisher, MD, MPH
"The Emergency: A Year of Healing and Heartbreak in a Chicago ER” by Thomas Fisher, MD, MPH, was the selection for WMed Common Read 2023.

A Chicago emergency room physician reflects on his work to steer his patients and colleagues through the COVID-19 pandemic and a violent summer in this year’s selection for Common Read.

The WMed Common Read, now in its 10th year, is a program that provides a shared learning experience for the medical school community. This year’s event, which will be held via Microsoft Teams, is scheduled for Tuesday, September 12, from 6:00 to 7:00 p.m. Common Read is open to WMed students, faculty and staff, alumni, and health practitioners employed at Kalamazoo’s teaching hospitals, and faculty, staff and currently enrolled students at Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo College and Kalamazoo Valley Community College are welcomed to participate. The Common Read is sponsored by the PNC Foundation Lectureship.

This year’s selection is “The Emergency: A Year of Healing and Heartbreak in a Chicago ER” by Thomas Fisher, MD, MPH, an emergency medicine physician at University of Chicago Medicine. His 288-page book provides a one-year window into Dr. Fisher’s role as a doctor on the rapid-evaluation unit in 2020 where he has about three minutes to evaluate each patient who come through the doors of the hospital on Chicago’s South Side. Through his stories, he tells of a “deeply flawed health care system strained by a deadly pandemic and searing injustice,” according to an overview of his book.

“Through twenty years of clinical practice, time as a White House fellow, and work as a healthcare entrepreneur, Dr. Fisher has seen firsthand how our country’s healthcare system can reflect the worst of society: treating the poor as expendable in order to provide top-notch care to a few. In The Emergency, Fisher brings us through his shift, as he works with limited time and resources to treat incoming patients,” the book overview says. “And when he goes home, he remains haunted by what he sees throughout his day. The brutal wait times, the disconnect between hospital executives and policymakers and the people they're supposed to serve, and the inaccessible solutions that could help his patients.”

“Students selected this year’s book as it widened their perspective on healthcare delivery,” said Liz Lorbeer, EdM, chair of the medical school’s Department of Medical Library. “The author delivers a real-life perspective of working in a fast-paced ambulatory setting during the pandemic. Moreover, he addresses the inequalities in providing healthcare that he had witnessed. Dr. Fisher shared what was needed for social justice reform, and the students could connect to the author's reflection, as the mission of WMed was to make healthcare accessible to all in Southwest Michigan.  The students felt that Dr. Fisher’s book spoke to them and allowed them to reflect on the challenges ahead in their training.”

Dr. Fisher will be the keynote speaker at this year’s Common Read and the hour-long event will time for discussion with him.

For more information about this year’s event, visit