Emergency medicine physicians care for our most acute health problems—immediately and without appointment or regard for the type of medical problem, or the age or gender of the patient. In many ways, this lightning fast approach is the opposite of public health. With its focus on resuscitation and stabilization of individuals in the current moment, emergency medicine doesn’t treat the upstream causes of the health crises that come through the E.R., nor does it contend with the more downstream consequences of those crises, which often reverberate through families and communities long after physical wounds have healed.
Dr. Megan Ranney will tell you however, that an emergency department is the perfect place to learn about, and practice, public health. “It’s really the place where you see public health problems before the rest of society and the rest of our country sees them,” she said. On the front lines of the overdose crisis, the firearm injury epidemic, and emerging disease outbreaks, emergency nurses and physicians witness firsthand many of society’s deepest challenges. As the only part of the United States’ health care system open to everyone, regardless of their ability to pay, emergency departments function as the “safety net of our health care system,” Ranney said. Her work in the emergency room helps keep her attuned to the “reality of health care” and “all the ways in which … society does not promote health.”
For much of her nearly two decades at Brown University, and in true Brunonian fashion, Ranney has straddled the fields of medicine and public health. She arrived at Brown in 2004, completing her medical residency in emergency medicine, followed by a fellowship in injury prevention research. She has served as an attending physician at the Miriam Hospital and Rhode Island Hospital in Providence since 2008, the year she joined Brown’s Warren Alpert Medical School faculty in the Department of Emergency Medicine. She earned an MPH from Brown in 2010, and in 2013, became an assistant professor in the Department of Health Services, Policy and Practice in the School of Public Health.
In 2019, Ranney founded the Brown-Lifespan Center for Digital Health, where creative minds from Brown and its affiliated hospital partners collaboratively design, test, and
deploy digital solutions to challenges that affect the health of patients and populations.