Keegan Checkett, MD is an Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Section of Emergency Medicine and the Director of the International Emergency Medicine Medical Education Fellowship Program at the University of Chicago. She completed her internal medicine residency training at the University of California –San Francisco and worked as a hospitalist on Navajo Nation before matriculating into the Emergency Medicine Residency Program at the University of Chicago, where she joined the faculty after graduating in 2011. Dr. Checkett served as core faculty for the Emergency Medicine Residency Program at Muhimbili National Hospital in Dar es Salaam, and remains active on the Education Committee for the African Federation of Emergency Medicine.
Since 2014, Dr. Checkett has worked with Partners in Health in Haiti as the Emergency Medicine Residency Co-Director at University Hospital of Mirebalais, where she developed and implemented a unique curriculum for the first and only emergency medicine residency in Haiti. The three-year training program meets all international standards, has begun the ACGME-I accreditation process (making it the first low-income country EM program to do so), and recently graduated its third class, and completed a successful transition to local leadership.
Living and working full-time in two different countries simultaneously requires routine and organization, particularly around packing and travel. Necessary tools include:
- • InstaCartor PrimeNow: order from the Port au Prince Airport, and groceries are on my doorstep when I get home
- • Eagle Creek zip-around Compression Bags: Cuts the bulk of clothes in half, no wrinkles
- • Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint Soap: I haven’t tried brushing my teeth with it, but it does everything else!
- • Starbucks Via Instant Coffee: zoom
- • Om on the Range: a regular yoga practice keeps me steady. In Chicago, I practice at Om. When I travel, I use their podcasts. I find comfort in practicing with my home instructors and classmates, wherever I may be in the world.
- • iOSReminders app: I use a modified version of Getting Things Done. Reminders is brilliant in its simplicity and reliability; setan alarm, jot down a note, and trust all things go to the cloud, even when I’m on limited and slow data.
- • GoogleDocsand Gmail: both work well offline, which is important when I’m traveling. Docs and Sheets are particularly great for collaborating internationally on documents.
Regarding personal life, I take a long view on balance. Those six years in Tanzania and Haiti didn’t include much time outside work, but it was necessary to do high quality, ethical work, and I am privileged to have had that opportunity. Now back in Chicago, I am catching up on my personal life and taking time to unpack some boxes, hang out with friends, and work toward single motherhood, though currently am learning patience and empathy with unanticipated infertility.
Like most professional women, I had a ten-year plan for my career that factored in, but did not pause for, family. Life doesn’t always acknowledge idealized calendars, robust as our organizational systems may be. I’ve never felt my femaleness more than in the past year, with my career and my personal life at odds in a way that I had not experienced, and my male colleagues will never. Academic women have made tremendous strides toward professional parity, and I look forward to future collaboration and innovation, including our male colleagues, to further level the playing field.
Advice to Women Faculty and Trainees
Choose the job you love.
Switching from IM to EM was rough—and absolutely worth it. Everyone deserves to have a job she loves. Be brave, and go after it.
Find colleagues and a chief who support and empower you, and who you respect and admire.
My chief, Linda Druelinger, and colleagues, all twenty of them, make my work possible. Their support for the development of the international EM (and infinite generosity in scheduling) enables my travel, and as such, my involvement with the Tanzania and Haiti EM residencies is on behalf of the entire UChicagoSection of Emergency Medicine.
Call your girlfriend.
I’ve met my closest friends in the field. These women see me, and they are my staunchest allies and most vocal critics, they challenge and sustain me, and I them. Identify and nurture those relationships; they are rich, and rare, and make us better.