I read about it
Not sure if it can affect us

Few days go by
People now ask me
I am supposed to know

What it is
How to prevent
How to treat

To be a frontliner

Take a breath
It’s ok to be scared

But then,
I have to move on and help

Niyati Grewal, MBBS

Family Time

School is now virtual, her kids are always home
Jobs are now uncertain, her livelihood a slippery prize
They say quarantine, they say family time
Her black eye and bruises, “just new make-up tricks mummy is trying out”
She holds them tight, her tiny little kids
Too young to already know the sounds of abuse

Jane-Frances Aruma

Patients of Color #2

“Bad black mother”
She’s back again.
It’s her seventh child.
She’s positive for amphetamines, again.
HIV positive, no prenatal care, no insurance.
It’s 2 a.m. The baby is 3 months early.
It’s born — transferred to the NICU.
Mom is discharged.
“We’ll see her again,” my attending shrugs and turns to his computer.
We all failed her.

Roshan Bransden, MS4

The Reality of Stay at Home Orders

He’s ill, but cannot afford to miss work.
He wants to quarantine for others’ safety but can’t survive without income.
Your hands touch his. Now you’re contaminated.
It was easier to pass judgement on his lack of isolation when the virus was abstract.
But now, you too, are vulnerable to its hardships.
Now you understand.

Rachel Fields
Medical Student

Secure unit dialectic

Looming over her,
Yellow gown, masked,
Breath misting plastic, I barely hear:

“I can’t breathe”.
Intergenerational despair.

“Can I have my clothes?”
Crumpled on the mattress, tugging the
Baby doll around her,
“It’s for safety”, says the white nurse.
Stripped of identity
Like her ancestors.
Isolation again.
She hugs herself;
No budget for kind words.

Lisa Burback
Academic Psychiatrist

Act Now

I Can’t Breath. Please Help.
COVID-19 or police chokehold.
Emergency Medicine doctors- we see it all. Rush to aid.
Give oxygen, intubate, CT scan, medication?
What can we do? Anything? Powerlessness.
Coronavirus and systemic racism.
We can witness, We can feel, We can give voice to our patients.
Act with what energy and time remains.

Alisa Hayes
Faculty Member

What Am I Missing?

Why do your lungs still look like this? Why does your heart still race like this? What am I missing? Who are you behind these closed eyes? How do I prepare your family for the cries? What am I missing? I see you every day yet feel you drifting further away. What am I missing?

Elena Zamora


I have no idea,
It could be,
It is most likely,
Presentation is most consistent with.

You could have,
You might have,
You are at risk for,
You are diagnosed with.

We suggest,
We recommend,
We will order,
We prescribed.

Anything else I can help you with,
Do you have any questions…
How are you?

Hannah Mulvey Ferrera
Medical Student

Back to work

“ You must be frontline”
With guilt
“ I am doing televisits for now”
The hospital is eerie and quiet outside
Once inside
You forget
Residents crowd together
Affording comfort
And normalcy
You stand close to an upset father
To explain and assuage
On your way home
You are haunted by his maskless face

Madhura Pradhan, MD
Faculty Member


I have a child, husband, elderly parents, job.
Work with colleagues, residents, students, and COVID.
Busy days…lots of responsibilities.
No more vacations, no more school.
Now fear of infection is the reality.
Now fear of infecting my family is the reality.
Have to stay healthy, optimistic, strong.
I am a mother, wife, daughter, and doctor.

Doris Lin
Faculty Member

COVID19 Musings as Haiku

Science non grata
Lack of trust cuts deeper now
How did we get here?

Not doing enough
Colleagues suffer, I am spared
Guilt laced tears fall down

Fear of the unknown
Waiting, hoping all will clear
Calm before the storm

Quiet clinic rooms
Missing laughter, hugs, and smiles
New normal too still

Nicole Kucine
Faculty Member


I think she’s Punjabi
Rare around here
Chatting after the appointment
I’ve missed this connection
She asks for my name again
Last name, too? I give it
Faced with her confusion, I repeat myself
She doesn’t understand
Realize I’m pronouncing it like I’m white, not Indian
I correct, try to explain
Have I forgotten myself?

Anmol Hans
Medical Student


Called a “Hero”
While just doing my job…
The career I chose,
Before chaos stroke.

If I had just been that hero,
To make it all stop,
Hopelessness wouldn’t have robbed,
Who this pandemic longed for.

I was no hero after all.
I just fulfilled the vow I vowed:
To help others…

At what cost?

Rosa Lizeth Frias
Medical Student

Clinic is more confusing

Unmasked in my office behind a closed door, I still feel safe. Beyond, into the aerosol wedged between us doctoring has become risky. Physical examination is now dangerous. Your masked fears and mine behind a faceshield, attend carefully to your story. What is your illness? Is it the new one? Or one we knew before?

Lara Ronan
Faculty Member

Chaos and Confusion in a Pandemic

How does it spread? How can I stay safe?
Am I infected? Was I exposed?
Will I recover?
Stay 6 feet apart. Stay 3 feet apart.
Those asymptomatic can’t spread the infection.
On second thought, yes, they can.
We wait, we experience, we try to learn, but yet, still none of us know the answers.

Rachel Fields
Medical Student

Student doctors and more

“Only” student doctors, always overseen.
Gained confidence from clerkships, no longer green.
But – “only” student doctors – and pulled from hospitals.
Look back on your journey! We’re not so brittle.
PPE donated, contacts traced, patients screened.
Though not in the hospital, we have done this and more,
After all, we are student doctors
And more.

David Gao
Medical Student

No One Untouched

“You need to come now.” I hang up the phone having just shattered Sam’s life and forty year marriage. He blames himself. If only he’d seen her at the nursing facility he would have known something was wrong sooner. But the virus kept him away. A death not due to COVID, but tainted by it.

Jennifer Caputo-Seidler
Faculty Member

Patient – from Latin for “one who suffers”

Can’t remember his name or surgery. Multiple pages about his irritated eyes. Internal bleeding patient took priority. Hours later I make it to his room. He looked at me through his eye watering. “I’m alright, Doc. I don’t have pain. But if you could give me something for my eye, I sure would appreciate it.”

Mike M Mallah

Despairing Monotony

For me, the allure of an Infectious Diseases career was twofold: the somewhat guilty thrill of the differential diagnosis, paired with and mitigated by the fact that cure was typically within grasp. COVID-19 robbed me of these gratifications: diagnostic mystery and the capacity to heal. Practicing during the pandemic has been a dreadful, despairing monotony.

Emily Abdoler
Faculty Member

Caught Useless

Seventy-something, Italian immigrant, dementia. In the COVID pandemic, there are no activities, nothing open. He worsens. Me, a soon-to-be medical student, but the lack of an MD degree stings. I cannot help my grandfather, nor dying COVID patients. If I spent a year convincing schools I am qualified, then why do I feel so useless?


Pandemic Hero

Her voice crackled on the phone.

“Sounds like hero stuff to me.”

It was embarrassing to explain that all I really do is assemble PPE and study in my room; sidelined while real doctors risk themselves on COVID wards. Medical students rarely feel useful, but now we’re reminded of it every day on the news.

Jacob Hartman-Kenzler
Medical Student

Pressing Pause

Commitment to heal and serve others, in their most vulnerable moments of life. We earnestly swore.
Years of studies, hoping knowledge would save. Mastering the art of physical exam. Healing through touch.
Yet faced with pandemic, we are discouraged to touch.
Sent home. Knowledge paused.
Unable to heal.
The irony: Student doctors shielded from disease.

Hanna Knauss
Medical Student


Spend my days taking care of sick patients.
Exposing myself.
As a result, I’m radioactive.
When I need care, I fail the screening questionnaire. Any known exposures? Yes. Lots.
My appointment delayed. Once, twice, three times.
Doctor and nurse won’t come near me. Testing delayed. Diagnosis delayed.
Caring for others, at the expense of myself.



Social distancing kept me from noticing how sick you had become. Our 15 year routine of Sunday dinner, became limited to FaceTime and grocery drop offs, where you toughened up so that I wouldn’t be concerned. Now, as you reach your final days, I think that maybe you should have been my bubble buddy.

Annie Wood

My Bias

Black, purple sweatpants and sneakers, and scruffy beard, in the ER. His phone rings, “that’s my song” he asserts. Eyes roll, yeah right. “I need to be discharged to receive my Grammy” he proclaims. Eyes roll, yeah right. My bias, almost missed conversing with a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee and Grammy winner.

Douglas Ander
Faculty Member

A Double Toxic Kiss

Days after both feeling sick.

“You might want to get checked.”
“Checked for what?”
“I’m at urgent care- nose swabbed and blood drawn.”
“Wait there- I’m coming.”

He arrives and gets tested.

“Where’s my kiss?”
Kisses me rather hesitantly.

Nurse comes over with my results.

“..M. Pneumonia.”

We patiently wait.

“…..mine says nonreactive.”

Tiffany Rebecca Sánchez
Medical Student

Local epidemiology, not in the news?

Cars arrive on the block, parking closer than 6 feet.
Visitors carry toddlers, glass containers for potluck next door.
BBQ smokes, tempting aromas aerosolize.
As people cross the exposed lawn, I see smiles, not masks.
My phone pings again, irritating.
Alerts for each new positive SARS-CoV-2.
They keep coming. My neighbors do not hear.

Kathleen Julian, MD
Faculty Member

Clerkship Interrupted

My lifeless whitecoat hangs on the door,
Safe to say it’s needed no more.
TikTok, Netflix, and long walks,
Sometimes it’s nice when the TV just talks.
Sitting and waiting for the pandemic to be done,
I wonder if the virus has already won.

Max Trojano
Medical Student

When Being Safe Doesn’t Mean Being Free

Often felt helpless as a doctor. Hopeless, too. Par for the
Unrestrained virus isn’t affecting me, though.
Watching friends and family on the front lines, exposed,
This is devastating me.
The guilt feels quite heavy. Should I seek out ways to help?
Or do I indulge in the lack of personal risk?

Gabriel Sarah, MD
Faculty Member


I examine my patients, masks slung under noses. A toddler sneezes on me. I change my scrubs. My blue paper mask is a week old. My patient’s father has an N95. He sleeps in it alone in their private room. Every visitor masked properly. I catch myself staring enviously, maybe angrily. Then, I am ashamed.

Heather Edward

Blank Stare

Eyes wide open unable to look away from the world furiously unraveling. We began this journey to help, now we sit still, idling. Incapable of offering our untried hands; we grieve the loss of opportunity. When again will we look into a patient’s eyes? Until then, we stare blankly at the computer screen, our pedagogue.

Shelby Henry
Medical Student

MS2 to MS3 Transition……Loading

Scrolling through an endlessly disconnected social media, the light gets drained from me.

Scrolling through my emails, meaningful extracurricular opportunities re-enlightening me.

Scrolling through clinical modules to read, simulating an experience so close yet so distant for me.

Scrolling through a prolonged phase of imposter syndrome, except the scrolling function feels disabled to me.

Irfan Ali Khan
Medical Student

Becoming a Physician During the Pandemic

I choke down coffee in the parking lot. Once the mask is on, it’s on. Under blaring E.D. lights, I quake. I am your doctor. Mask, goggles, face-shield: PPE protects patients from my fear.

Taking the Hippocratic Oath, I had imagined my future fear: Will I hurt you?

But now, also: Will you hurt me?

Hanna M. Saltzman

Physician Parenting during the Big Germ

To our daughters,
We needed to be at the hospital – to take care of other kids – but you needed us too. Daycare closed.
What you learned during the big germ isn’t what we planned to teach you.
About Sickness,
Childhood spring and summers.
Smiles covered by masks, tears visible.
Mama and Papa

C. Paula Lewis-de los Angeles, MD, PhD (Resident) and William Lewis-de los Angeles, MD (Faculty Member)

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