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Meet Dr. Darria

Meet Dr. Darria

Name: Darria Long Gillespie, MD, MBA

Specialty: Emergency Medicine

Hospital: Emory University

Favorite app: AskMD (of course!)

When did you know you wanted to be a doctor?
Since I was small, I wanted to be a physician. I loved what I saw as their ability to help others. I also noticed that whenever anything went wrong, be it someone falling and getting injured or a friend in trouble, I could keep my cool and take care of things. That’s what pushed me to become an ER doctor -- the more dire the situation, the more I focus.

How do you feel when patients Google their symptoms?
I love it when someone is trying to learn more about their symptoms, so I absolutely appreciate their motivation. But I also feel my patients’ frustration because they often find inaccurate -- and frequently frightening -- information online. The other day I took care of a woman who is healthy and in her 30s. She had neck pain from a pinched nerve, and that caused pain to shoot down her left arm when she turned her head. However, when she googled this, she found that left arm pain could mean she’s having a heart attack, so she came rushing into the ER, terrified.

What health trends are you keeping an eye on these days?
Digital health and the quantified self are two big trends right now. Thus far, much of the  “Quantified Self” is about observing what you do. The true paradigm change will come when we’re able to use that data to find patterns, and -- even more significantly -- turn that into interventions and actions for changing outcomes.

What do you keep in your medicine cabinet?
With a toddler at home, my medicine cabinet is always stocked! I keep on hand ibuprofen and acetaminophen (at the right strengths for the age of my child), Band-Aids for boo-boos, a thermometer and some anti-bacterial cream. A bag of frozen peas is always good to keep in the freezer for sprains/strains, and waterproof adhesives to cover a bandage so it doesn’t get wet during the day.

What kinds of injuries do you see every day that are mostly preventable?
In the ER, I see many injuries that happen because totally reasonable people are just a bit careless, often when they're out having fun—perhaps riding an ATV, lighting fireworks or jumping on a trampoline. And I hear many of these same patients say, “I knew it was a bad idea…” or “I knew I should have done X to protect myself.” So, here’s the Dr. Darria Rule: if something crosses your mind as a “maybe this could happen,” then take steps to make it safer or avoid it altogether. Do this in your own home, too.

What’s your biggest health vice?
Probably too much caffeine. Research has shown that one to two cups a day can be good for you, so I use this as justification to drink more than I probably should.

Favorite hero -- real or fictional?
Elizabeth Blackwell, the first US woman to get her MD; and Nicholas Winton, who risked his life to save children in World War II.

If you weren’t a physician, what would you be?
If I could sing like them, I would like to be Idina Menzel or Kristin Chenoweth. Alas, I’d better stick to my day job.