In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are inspired by TEAK alumni who work tirelessly on the frontlines keeping our communities safe and resilient. Every day they show up to treat patients, organize communities, teach students remotely, and more. Today we’re shining a spotlight on our alumni who provide healthcare under our current challenging circumstances.
“The reality is as horrifying as you’re reading about in the media and hearing about in the news. We are continuously adjusting the bed capacity of our hospital as the numbers grow by quickly discharging patients and repurposing other areas for clinical care. The scarcity of PPE is quite real, and we are constantly changing our internal guidelines to adapt. Medical professionals from all kinds of other specialties are being redirected to assist in the care of COVID-19 patients, which means patients who are sick with other illnesses are also suffering from lack of optimal care… In spite of this, it’s encouraging to be able to work alongside such courageous and driven healthcare workers and ancillary staff.” -Tarif Chowdhury, Class 3, Anesthesiologist
We salute Tarif and our alumni on the frontlines nationwide. Thank you to our health heroes!
Meet some of our other TEAK Alumni Health Heroes
Tarif Chowdhury, Class 3, Anesthesiologist
In terms of my experience, I’m unhappy to say the situation in North Jersey is just as grave as it is in NYC. The reality is as horrifying as you’re reading about in the media and hearing about in the news. We are continuously adjusting the bed capacity of our hospital as the numbers grow by quickly discharging patients and repurposing other areas for clinical care. The scarcity of PPE is quite real, and we are constantly changing our internal guidelines to adapt. Medical professionals from all kinds of other specialties are being redirected to assist in the care of COVID-19 patients, which means patients who are sick with other illnesses are also suffering from a lack of optimal care. The course of the disease (if you’re unfortunately in the small percentage who get critically ill) is impressive. So far, my anesthesia colleagues and I have been primarily focused on airway/ventilator management of COVID-19 patients (in addition to our existing role of providing anesthesia for emergent surgical cases). Starting next week, we will also start managing the ICUs. Personally, I’m just as scared as everyone else in the world, but trying to remain positive and focus on my specific roles. Given how easily the virus spreads, I have a constant level of anxiety while I’m in the hospital, even when I’m not directly involved in patient care. A few of my colleagues (here, and at Columbia University where I trained) have unfortunately been infected; some of whom are currently in the ICU. In spite of this, it’s encouraging to be able to work alongside such courageous and driven healthcare workers and ancillary staff.
I hope people in the community, whether or not they have been directly affected by this, continue to practice all the safety measures even after we pass the peak of the crisis. Even though it may be hard to see the immediate effects of this, we have to continue trusting the experts in order to dampen the spread. Everyone can play a role in helping us get through this together.
Tammy Leung, Class 8, BSN, RNC-MNN, Postpartum Nurse
COVID-19 has, directly and indirectly, affected me in a number of ways. I am a postpartum nurse- a nurse who cares for new mothers and their newborns. I have always found myself extremely lucky to be on the happiest unit in the hospital, the one place where patients are smiling as they’re admitted and as they are discharged. Due to COVID-19, my patients were not allowed to have their support person, ie: a partner, family member, to be with them during this extremely vulnerable time. Family members who had planned to be here for them were forced to cancel their travel plans from months prior, leaving my patients weak and hormonal to take care of a newly born child entirely alone. As someone who they look to for peace of mind, I could not offer them any reassurance, as there is just so much uncertainty with this new virus.
Furthermore, we were asked by our managers to be deployed to COVID-19 units to care for those sick with the virus amongst other comorbidities. Being that my first job was in postpartum, caring for healthy women and healthy babies, it was a shock to me and my coworkers to have only two shifts of orientation and then to be deployed and care for adults and illnesses we have never been exposed to, learning new skills and high-level equipment under an immense amount of pressure. Not only are we undergoing an immeasurable amount of stress and helplessness at work, but also those who live with their children or elderly parents are being forced to separate from their loved ones or risk spreading COVID-19 to them as we as healthcare providers could be asymptomatic carriers.
My biggest advice to all is – stay home as much as you can. Donate blood if you are able to as there is a universal blood shortage due to blood drives being canceled. Stay home and do not go to the grocery store every day. Every interaction you have outside of your own space is another patient that we may not be able to care for. Also, think about those around you and do not buy what you do not need- reserve the Plaquenil, thermometers, hand sanitizer and cleaning supplies for those who really need it. Be smart about what is considered a necessity at a time like this. People are dying alone or watching their loved ones die without being able to be by their side. Keep that in mind the next time you want to step out of your home. We can only get through this if we work as a team.
Rashidah Green, Class 1, Pediatrician
I work in a clinic in the Bronx, and as medical director at my site, it is important that I keep my staff and our patients healthy and safe. Obviously, we are all human and definitely very shaken up by all of this. As a healthcare worker, there is a huge risk of being exposed to this deadly disease and spreading it to loved ones and coworkers. It’s very draining trying to keep up with all the news and information that gets thrown at you. On a daily basis, we are hearing of fellow doctors, patients, staff, and family passing away. It’s difficult to boost morale here because we cannot see the end of this and the future seems grim. I am also constantly worried about my fellow colleagues working on the front lines. What’s been reassuring is still being able to help my patients and relieve their fears, even if it’s by telephone or video visits.
Nothing lasts forever and I am sure that this crisis will be over soon. Have faith. There are a lot of things happening – schools are closed, mixed messages are being shared with the public, people are dying. But at the end of the day, if you take all of the correct precautions, you will be safe. Stay home, except for things that are absolutely necessary. Don’t have visitors over. If you need to leave the house, change your clothes and shower upon returning home. Wash down all surfaces that you and family touch a lot after use (ie toilet seats, doorknobs, kitchen counters). Wear a mask or some kind of face-covering at all times if you can. Avoid touching your face, and most importantly please wash your hands!
At the end of the day, we are very blessed to have the TEAK Fellowship offering us support through this. We are a strong community, but it should be times like these to bring us together and make us even stronger! People, even in our own TEAK community might be losing their jobs, family members, their whole way of life. When this is over, we cannot be assured that things will be normal again, but we can try our best to rebuild to get back there. So let’s make sure our TEAK students, alums and families have the best outcomes after this by continuing to support each other in all the ways that we possibly can. Please stay healthy and please stay safe!
Dyese Taylor, Class 1, Physician in Maternal-Fetal medicine
I have many patients with COVID-19 in various stages of severity. It is a very busy time and there are still a lot of knowledge gaps in the management of this virus.
My main advice is to please stay home and socially distance. It really does have an effect on not overwhelming our hospitals.
Dewahar Senthoor, Class 6, Surgery Resident
With regard to COVID-19, as a surgery resident in Oakland, things are not quite as hectic as they are in other cities. We are still waiting for the surge to hit here. My only potential exposures to COVID-19 at this time are in the setting of taking care of incoming traumas and surgical consults in the ED. This will likely change in the coming weeks as the surge hits. In places where things are much worse, surgery residents are being recruited to assist in the care of COVID-19 patients. I will be heading back to Providence in a few months, where I know surgery residents are already taking care of COVID-19 patients requiring ICU care.
As far as advice, I would urge people to continue to follow the social distancing and good hand hygiene (washing hands, limiting face touching, etc) policies. We are still actively learning about this virus…it affects different people differently based on their co-morbidities, possibly viral exposure load and possibly varying serotypes. Thus, the safest thing to do is to avoid getting exposed as much as possible. In addition, please be mindful of the resources you consume…every extra set of masks or soap or hand sanitizer that you hold onto at home is a set that someone else cannot use. It is hard to predict how long this pandemic will go on for and so it’s understandable that people will want to have some extra…but just talk amongst your communities via the web/phones to share resources as needed and to make sure that we are taking care of each other. As cliched as it may sound, we are all in this together.
Varina Clark, Class 5, Medical Student
Being a student away from home during this healthcare crisis has been challenging – I worry about the health and safety of my loved ones in NY, so I check in daily. As a medical student, there have been many changes to medical education instruction, research laboratory work, and student learning. We are restricted from going to the hospital for clinical rotations, research labs are closed, and exams and conferences have been postponed due to social distancing. Despite these limitations, this experience has caused us to be very creative with online meetings, virtual hangouts and finding ways to assist our colleagues on the frontlines. It has been a humbling experience for many of us, but the COVID19 experience has reminded me of how important it is to be an informed, dedicated and caring physician for patients.
My advice is to take advantage of this extraordinary time. Prioritize your physical and mental health. Stay connected with family and friends. Reflect on what you are most grateful for and the ways in which you will continue to grow during this season.