HumAnes of UCLA: Emma Huebner, MD, CA-3

Introducing Emma Huebner MD, CA-3 Resident Physician

Photo of Emma Huebner on bike ride

First off, thank you so much for being willing to share your story. Where are you from originally? Where did you grow up?

I am originally from Boulder, Colorado, but primarily grew up in Ventura, California. Ventura is a sleepy beach town known best for its surf spots and breakfast burritos. We occasionally refer to ourselves as “Ventucky” in comparison to our more glamorous neighbor Santa Barbara, but all joking aside, my hometown was a gem of a place to grow up in.

Where did you go for medical school? What made you become interested in anesthesiology?

Family ties to Nebraska nudged me out of my coastal California bubble to Omaha for medical school, where I attended the University of Nebraska. I quickly realized during clerkships that I gravitated toward acute care settings. I grappled with the decision to pursue either anesthesiology or emergency medicine, and after receiving wise counsel from physicians who remain steadfast mentors to this day, I settled on anesthesiology. I struggled with this decision during my CA-1 year; the learning curve in anesthesia is steep, and the OR environment took me a while to get used to. As I progressed in training, however, I enjoyed my job more and more with each passing month, and I am so grateful that my career found me the way that it did.

Where do you live in the city, and why did you pick it? 

Emma Huebner, MD, CA-3 with family members

I just moved the great distance of 0.6 miles from West LA to Brentwood. I am now farther away from my favorite coffee shop (Goodboybob Coffee Roasters) but closer to my favorite natural wine shop (Helen’s Wines, inside of Jon and Vinny’s). I bike to work most days; the morning commute is just long enough to allow the fresh air to wake me up a bit, and the evening commute is the perfect distance to unwind after a long day.

When you're not at work, what do you do in your free time to decompress?

My most frequented places outside of the hospital include the Santa Monica Mountains, where I love to trail run and gravel bike, a local cafe for a cortado and carb-forward breakfast item, and of course my couch with a good book. Random book recommendations—I just finished Yellowface, which was great, and am now reading The Heaven and Earth Grocery Store, which is also excellent. The west side of LA has prime access to such beautiful places to run, bike, surf, hike, etc. And while I occasionally wish for slightly more exciting weather, the consistency of our sunny days allows for accessibility to everything LA has to offer, no matter the season or time of day.

What are your plans after this year? How did you come to that decision?

I will be pursuing a fellowship here in Anesthesiology Critical Care Medicine next year! It was a rather circuitous decision-making process on my part. (I wrote at length about this in a former DAPM Handoff issue.) I am incredibly grateful to get to stay at UCLA for fellowship, and I am excited to see where life takes me afterward as I begin my career as an attending!

Emma Huebner, MD, CA-3's dog

Many of us know Finn. Tell us about how you became a dog mom, and what are your favorite activities to do with him?

My mom likes to call Finn my “best worst decision.” I came to the conclusion on the cusp of my fourth year of medical school that I needed a canine in my life. I happened upon a breeder with an upcoming litter of puppies and was conveniently rear-ended on the highway, leaving a slight blemish of a dent in the back of my Subaru Outback, but with an insurance cashout equal to the exact price of a fluffy golden retriever puppy. I brought Finn home on my 25th birthday and was immediately in love. Finn will be five in May this year; I could never have been the dog mom that I am to him without all the people in my life who love and care for him so well. My parents beg to watch him every time I go on vacation—he has the world’s absolute best dog sitter, and I am never without a friend who will take him for a walk or give him extra snuggles if I have an unexpectedly late day at work. I also lucked out by just having an unbelievably great dog—he's half human I swear (maybe only a quarter human—he has quite instinctual desires for rolling in mud and grass, eating garbage off the street mid-run, and careening after all squirrels and ducks). He is the best trail running buddy, and he has even ventured on a mellow backcountry ski tour with me. I love taking him on long walks in the evening and letting him sprint back and forth across the sand at the beach to his heart’s content. I have tried arduously to teach him to like swimming, but that is still in progress.

What is your favorite snack to bring in for your Team Captain (TC) shifts?

I waffle over how healthy I should make my TC snack selections. When you’re awake and working all night, your brain needs sustainable nutrition to keep plugging along. But also, sometimes at 2am, you just need a cookie. I strike a balance by offering a bit of both—carrots and hummus, whichever in-season Trader Joe’s goodies catch my eye, oh and Paleo Puffs from Whole Foods. I don’t know what makes them paleo, and I highly doubt they’re that good for you, but I can eat the entire bag if I don’t utilize self-restraint.

What are your plans for your next vacation? 

Emma Huebner, MD, CA-3 skiing with friend

My next vacation (the last of residency!) is in February. I will be spending the first week downhill and backcountry skiing in Alta, Utah, and the second week cross country skiing in the Methow Valley in Washington. My first love in life is Finn, but a close second is having skinny (or fat) sticks strapped to each foot. Therein lies my deepest sadness about life in Los Angeles: it is too far away from mountains with snow.

Do you have any specific surgeries that you haven't had an opportunity to provide the anesthesia for that you're hoping to do before you graduate? 

I can’t say that my experience at UCLA has lacked variety—I have had the opportunity to provide anesthetics for a vast array of patients with complex physiologies and pathologies. This is probably quite an unpopular opinion, but I wouldn’t mind another liver transplant or two if I stumble into a liver call shift over the next few months.