It takes a special kind of person to pursue a career in emergency medicine. Consider Pedro Salcido, a third-year UC Irvine medical student who’s working toward a medical degree and an M.B.A.

“Being married, having two kids and going to medical school might seem like a lot of stress, but I function better in crises,” says Salcido, while placidly soothing his crying 2-year-old girl and 8-month-old boy. His temperament makes him an ideal candidate for emergency medicine.

“People come into the emergency room who’ve been stabbed or shot. You have to stay calm,” he says.

Salcido belongs to UCI’s Emergency Medicine Interest Group, students interested in emergency-medicine careers who promote the field among peers and perform community outreach.

Because of their efforts, 14 EMIG members recently received the 2008 Living Our Values Award for a student team. The awards are given annually by Chancellor Michael Drake to staff, faculty and students whose actions best embody UCI’s values of respect, intellectual curiosity, integrity, commitment, empathy, appreciation and fun.

EMIG members share a desire to heal those who have nowhere else to go for treatment. Emergency medicine appeals to them because ERs generally turn no one away for lack of money or insurance.

“Emergency departments are the safety net of the healthcare system. They’re the only place where patients can receive treatment regardless of their ability to pay,” says Jamie Akiva Kahn, a fourth-year M.D./M.B.A. student and EMIG co-president. “When I’m working at the hospital, the ER is my home. I feel like I help so many people in such a short amount of time. It’s a privilege to be there for patients in their greatest time of need.”

Pamela Yamamoto Swan, a third-year medical student, agrees: “When people come to the emergency department, it can be the worst day of their life. They’re terrified. We can help them medically and take away their fear.”

EMIG members also work to keep people out of ERs by educating them about safety, first aid and injury prevention.

“Emergency medicine isn’t just shift work,” Kahn says. “Community outreach is part of the job. You have to go out and work on prevention and education.”

EMIG participated in an Injury Prevention Fair at The Block at Orange, where they distributed bicycle helmets and first-aid kits to local families, and “More Than Just a Drink … ,” a DUI prevention event at Santa Ana Valley High School that featured a mock fatal car crash.

“It’s hard to tell with high school students, but they seemed to be riveted,” Swan says. “It was gratifying to present that kind of event – and maybe save lives.”

As part of their mission to teach and assist peers, EMIG students stage a biennial Emergency Medicine Student Symposium, featuring lectures and hands-on workshops by faculty and medical-student instructors.

“The symposium helped establish UCI’s Department of Emergency Medicine as a world-class teaching facility with students who promise to be leaders in emergency medicine,” says Dr. Shahram Lotfipour, associate clinical professor of emergency medicine and EMIG adviser.

This year’s symposium focused on subspecialties in emergency medicine.

“The symposium brings medical students together from across the country,” Swan says. “We’re sending our message pretty far – and getting UCI’s name out there.”