From youth to adulthood, Jeanne Rabalais, MD, MHA, has always had a heart to help others. That heart to help would later develop into a passion for medicine. Two years into her residency at the University of Florida Department of Emergency Medicine – Jacksonville, the proud Louisiana native recalls her dream of being in the medical field. Born to two loving parents who worked in business, she had no one close to her who practiced medicine, but that didn’t deter her.
“I had no doctors or medical professionals in my family. I was a regular kid who was active in sports and showed cattle in 4-H, but I just knew there was something for me in health care,” Rabalais said. “Whether I went the health administration route or went to medical school, I was going to make it happen.”
Rabalais did both, completing her undergraduate degree in psychology at Tulane University and master’s in health administration at the University of Arkansas. Never losing interest in the patient care aspect of medicine, Rabalais stayed in Little Rock, Arkansas and went to medical school at the University of Arkansas. Rabalais stood out and made an impact as the executive director of 12th Street Health and Wellness Center, a student-run interprofessional free clinic as a medical student. As she approached residency, an outstanding program with exceptional faculty and mentors was on her list and the UF College of Medicine – Jacksonville fit the bill.
“This program checked all the boxes, especially for emergency medicine,” Rabalais said. “There were also two faculty members at the University of Arkansas that trained at UF COMJ and spoke very highly of the program and leadership.”
Training at the highest level
Learning never stops when you are training in the region’s only Level I trauma center. As Doximity’s 2022 top-rated emergency medicine residency training program in Florida, faculty and staff at UF COMJ work to forge exceptional emergency medicine physicians. The PGY-2 resident goes into each shift with the mindset to broaden her medical knowledge while giving patients the care they need and deserve.
“Positivity is necessary in health care, especially emergency medicine,” Rabalais said. “Days can get tough, switching tasks often and dealing with intense shifts at times. Every shift teaches you something new about medicine and patient care.”
Rabalais notes the importance of having a supportive team in a profession that never stops.
“Faculty at UF challenge our medical knowledge but also empower me and my fellow co-residents to gain experience by doing and encouraging us to be autonomous,” said Rabalais. “It doesn’t stop there; faculty genuinely care about our well-being as people.”
Resident on the move
Rabalais currently serves as chair of the Emergency Medicine Residents’ Association Leadership Academy and represents the College of Medicine – Jacksonville as a member of the Florida College of Emergency Physicians. She is on the college’s Resident and Fellow Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access Committee and is passionate about helping women in academic medicine.
David Caro, MD, a professor of emergency medicine, associate designated institutional official for the College of Medicine – Jacksonville and the program director for the emergency medicine residency program, says Rabalais has made significant contributions as a resident.
Dr. Rabalais exemplifies professionalism and is clinically sharp as a tack,” Caro said. “She has set a high bar and hit the ground running taking on many responsibilities in the department both clinically and externally.”
Following the unexpected passing of former resident Bradford McGuire Jr., MD, Rabalais helped spearhead efforts to honor him. She led the charge to get commemorative pins dawning the number eight - Dr. McGuire’s jersey number during his time as an athlete. During this time, she picked up shifts to free senior colleagues to attend memorial services.
“If you knew Brad for a short amount of time you knew him forever,” Rabalais said. “He was the person you always wanted to be on shift with. He was our quarterback.”
A future in academic medicine
As she looks toward her future in medicine, Rabalais desires to stay in academic emergency medicine and teach the next generation of health care professionals.
“I aspire to be a program director one day and give quality training to students who will stand in the same position I am in now,” said Rabalais.
The UF College of Medicine – Jacksonville department of emergency medicine offers a 3-year, ACGME-accredited emergency medicine residency program in a high-volume, inner-city emergency department and regional Level I adult and pediatric trauma center. For more information, visit emergency.med.jax.ufl.edu.
Associate Designated Institutional Official, UFCOM-J; Associate Chair, Educational Affairs, Department of Emergency Medicine