Meet Tom Harka, MD, MS, Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine

December 11, 2017 by

Meet Tom Hartka, MD, MS, Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine at UVA School of Medicine.

This post is part of a series of interviews with new and junior faculty. Stay tuned for more interviews with your colleagues!

Q: How long have you been at UVA and where were you before you came to UVA?

It is hard for me to believe, but I have been at UVA for over a decade.  I initially came to UVA for medical school in 2006 and stayed on for residency in Emergency Medicine.  I then completed a fellowship in trauma research after residency.  In 2014, I was hired as a faculty member in Emergency Medicine.

I actually went to Virginia Tech for undergraduate and graduate school in computer engineering.  When I decided to pursue medicine, I attended a post-baccalaureate pre-med program at Johns Hopkins.  I am a Cavalier sports fan until they play Virginia Tech.  For those rivalry games, I still get out my orange and maroon gear.

Q: Is there something that you’ve worked on or accomplished in your career that you’re particularly proud of or glad you were able to experience?

A fairly recent accomplishment was being part of two teams that were selected as Crash Injury Research in Engineering Network (CIREN) centers.  This project is funded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and CIREN engages doctors and engineers to investigate real-world motor vehicle collisions (they are “collisions,” there is no such thing as an “accident”).  We were awarded a $4.7 million contract for the next five years to set up an engineering center and a medical center.  The medical center is actually a collaboration between UVA and Inova-Fairfax to enroll patients who present with injuries due to a MVC.  The engineering centers reconstruct the kinematics of the occupants during the collision and determine which component of the vehicle caused each injury.  I am fortunate to be a co-investigator for both a CIREN medical center and a CIREN engineering center.

Q: When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I was certain that I would grow up to be some sort of engineer.  My family is all engineers: my father and my sister are both electrical engineers and my uncles worked in mechanical engineering.  I initially trained in computer engineering, but at some point, I realized that I would go a little stir-crazy sitting in a cubicle all day. I eventually ended up in Emergency Medicine, so I am now kind of the black sheep of the family.

Q: A favorite spot to grab lunch during the day?

Roots is a favorite spot to grab a lunch.  As long the weather is nice enough to stand outside, since the line is always out the door.

Q: Do you have any children or fur babies at home?

No children or fur babies…I guess they could be called feather babies.  My wife and I have a small flock of chickens (who are all named and part of the family).  One of the things I love about Charlottesville is that I can tell people I own chickens and they don’t think it is that strange.

Q: Do you have a favorite local restaurant or hangout spot?

The Afghan Kabob Palace is probably my favorite restaurants.  It is not a flashy restaurant, but the food is amazing.  As for hangout spots, you can usually find my teammates and me at the Livery Stable on Monday nights after our curling match (yes, that ridiculous sport in the winter Olympics).  The Main Street Arena has a curling league and we have been participating for the last 3-4 years.  The upcoming season will probably be our last as the arena will be no more.

Q: Anything else you’d like to add?

Another interesting thing about me is that I have become a patron of the ballet. My wife is not in the medical field – she actually founded a ballet company here in town after dancing professionally.  She came to UVA for college, which is where I met her.  She co-founded the Charlottesville Ballet while she was still getting her degree.  The Charlottesville Ballet now has a school with over 550 students and the professional company is celebrating its 10th anniversary season.  Over the years, I’ve volunteered my carpentry skills to build set pieces small and large – you can even see some of my non-medical work on stage in The Nutcracker each year!


Filed Under: Faculty Interviews, Interviews, Junior Faculty Interviews