Minneapolis is eighty miles away, so these events literally hit close to home. As a black man, it can be uncommon for others to be concerned about my safety. Many of my colleagues asked how they can show solidarity. I am grateful for these bright lights during this dark moment in our country’s history.
Suliman EL-Amin (Fellow)
Can you tell me how to grieve in a pandemic?
Everyone is different; do self-care, they say.
But what if self-care is being with those I love?
Whom I dearly loved I have lost.
How could I risk bringing the virus to others beloved?
I am grieving but cannot grieve.
Because I love you.
Tiffany M. Shin, MD (Faculty Member)
A sad eyed woman speaks to an procession of hearers,
who think their boredom is hidden by masks and goggles.
Halting conversation is passed through a phone while minds wander.
A plan is made, and the dreaded final question asked.
Is there anything else we can do for you today?
“No, I’m fine.” She wasn’t.
Kylan Larsen, MS (Student)
MY BRILLIANT, BEAUTIFUL, WIFE IS DISAPPEARING
NOW I AM ALONE, CAN I HELP OTHERS AND COMFORT?
HOW CAN I CARE WHEN I AM ALONE?
I NEED TO BE LOVED AS I WALK THE LONELY PATH
TO MY DEATH
I WILL FIND LOVE AGAIN
ENERGY WILL RETURN
I WILL HEAL OTHERS.
Gerald Lazarus, MD (Faculty Member)
Two weeks into the quarantine, and the teenager’s recovering from a bout of bacterial meningitis he contracted before everything happened. He’s finally doing better. “This feels normal now,” the mother says, gesturing to the slender tubing snaking from his cranium. “I wish the rest of the world felt the same way.”
Gregory Plemmons (Faculty Member)
I see you
Trying your best to smile, hoping the news’ not too bad.
I see you
Holding the phone so tight your knuckles blanch, anxiously waiting for me to get to the point.
I see you
Hear the test results, gasping in disappointment, then the sobbing. Quiet.
I see you
Because I’m human too.
Evelyn Ilori, PhD (Student)
I ask the grey-hared white woman
as she enters the clinic next to Dave’s Mercado
“No, I live across town,”
she mumbles through her mask
She fumbles to roll up the sleeve of her beautiful red sweater
“I’m a little nervous”
I think to myself
before I jab her arm
Nikki E. Rossetti, MS (Student)
A lifetime in color now gray memories
wondering when last they talked.
Could he sense when her breathing
For what are wildflowers without bees?
What brings light to leafless trees?
There is no Luis without June.
And she is gone. So he left too.
Forevermore. A numbing statistic.
Lauren Moore (Student)
I’ve learned to smile with my eyes
So they can see that I have a soul.
I’ve learned that a moment of silence,
A reflection of the things that we hold dear,
Will allow us to proceed with purpose.
I’ve learned we’re more alike than we’d like to think.
We all want to be loved.
Miki Calderon (Student)
To pursue my dreams
While evolving from old wounds
To pursue my dreams
While evolving from old wounds
Stoics had known best
Master loneliness they said
The grace of being
Forced to confront inner worlds
For those in training
Must learn to heal themselves too.
Christina LaGamma (Student)
I catch her eye when she falters,
brow furrowed beneath breath-blurred plastic goggles
a pause at the sudden tears –
and then she wraps his inconsolable in white coat arms,
navy spots blossoming on sky blue fabric
– a reminder that pain can melt us together
just as much as it pushes us apart.
Haorui Sun, BS (Student)
You yearn to escape unscathed
as daylight erodes the bleakest night.
Vaccines on the horizon met with a foreign feeling-
But it is too late. She is gone.
Empty promises of protection proved fallible
because even wildflowers wilt in the sun.
She died alone. A numbing statistic.
Lauren Moore (Student)
From the shadows of healthcare, we rise. Now on the front stage.
Science and planning on a moment’s notice have collided…
With a hidden enemy at our door, lives are lost in a battle of time.
Steadfast and determined, we will not fail.
Jason Stalling, MBA (Administrator)
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
I have to move on and help.
Niyati Grewal, MBBS (Student)
Four hours after the surgery should have ended, my mother paced anxiously. “Should I call?” Not allowed in the hospital, we received no updates during the procedure. “They’ll call if something is wrong.” “I don’t want to annoy the doctors.” Grandma was already in recovery, it turned out. No one had bothered to tell us.
Allison Neeson, BS (Student)
I’ve developed a new appreciation for my own voice – a scream so forceful it took me by surprise. I called it my “pandemic yell”. I recorded it and listened to it over and over again. It was exhilarating to hear and feel the rage inside burst its way out finally. I made it my ringtone.
Mimi Lam, DVM, CCFP, Dip.Path (Faculty Member)
Watching charts, statistics, news commentators
Wondering where my place was in this strange new world of
Staying home, begging relatives to
My first day back in the hospital
Realizing the cost
In fear, in loneliness, in too-early goodbyes
But I know
With hope and courage
We are finding brightness
And brighter days ahead.
Emily Marra, BA (Student)
A new month begins,
I long for an end.
Writer’s block struggles,
so I puzzle with haikus
for poetry month.
dreams haunt my subconscious. I
can’t escape COVID.
A month of haikus,
finger counting syllables,
what will mark days now?
Trisha K. Paul (Resident)
She looks the same, despite many years.
Still young and still tired
as she was in 2005, when I met
her and her son.
His story a tapestry weaving
through so many ICU rooms since that day.
Recognition hits us.
She points out his “first” room.
A sudden hug, ignoring masks.
I don’t pull away.
Wynne Morrison, MD, MBE (Faculty Member)
Before she coded, I had told her she’d be okay.
I can’t breathe, she said between heaves
as the mask pushed the air in
and pulled life out.
I patted her shoulder,
held her hand through her gasps.
When the team started compressions
her head tilted towards me,
eyes wide in shock.
They were blue.
Andrew J Park, MD (Resident)
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 (Student)
You helped me realize life isn’t all about living nor death about dying.
Every death is but a reminder of what I yet need to let die within me. And I die a little when someone else dies too to in let the new life while still alive.
Your tough love made me more humane!
Sailaja Devaguptapu (Senior Research Officer)
She didnt know she was being, born in a pandemic,
a world where there would be no faces.
Where smiles wont prevail.
Where handshakes will be scary, and hugs would be scarce.
She only knew the warmth of the womb and,
now here she was in this cold dark world.
This cold dark world.
Saba Fatima, MD (Faculty Member)
Cough, sneeze, sniffle. Everyone is suspicious. At the grocery store, the bank, the gym. COVID-19 is everywhere. Invisible but ever-present. Waiting to capitalize on the next victim. Respiratory droplets, aerosolized, on fomites. There’s no escape from this war. Masks, social distancing, hand washing – our only hopes. We are in this together. We must come together.
Logan Garfield (Student)
Isolated in my room, I cannot leave
Food and drink are brought to me
My breath is infectious, I must wear a mask
It’s getting lonely in here
My dog cries outside my door
I feel sick, but the sadness of this isolation drowns that
Three more days, one negative result
Freedom is so near
Amanda Rodriguez (Student)
At home, like always, hunched over my computer clicking through UWorld questions. Our dog curls around my feet to beg for attention and food. Voices drift over from my mom’s phone—another day, another Zoom funeral. Which one?, I think, as I sweep my faceshield and mask into my bag for another clinic halfday.
Chioma Ndukwe, MS3 (Student)
Each with a family.
A parent. A child. A grandparent.
An aunt or uncle.
A spouse. A sibling.
Every minute, someone dies.
Not just a number, but a person.
Each with their own story.
A story cut short.
Kaila Pomeranz, DO (Attending)
“COVID-19, alone, intubated.
Young Black Female,
BLM protests outside.
Significant anemia. Blood ordered post-procedure.
I check on her. Sedation wearing off.
“I never want blood!” she writes.
RN, PRBC bag in hand.
“No blood,” I say.
I alert MD.
“Thank you, Dara,” she writes.”
Dara S. Farhadi, BS, MS (Student)
Brown like me
Amir and Sarah bounced off the walls of the clinic. I smiled and showed them my stethoscope. Their dad just lost his job and with that went his health insurance. He was grateful for this free clinic. I was grateful he trusted me. They looked just like me and my brother when we were kids.
Roshan Bransden, MS4 (Student)
“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 (Student)
Fever, chest pain, shortness of breath. Death
Shackles, choking, gasping. Death
Centuries of invisible, invincible oppression
A tale of contagion and two viruses
For one- tests, treatments, vaccines, fueled by money
For the other- words and more words, running on empty
Change is coming.
Change is coming.
Change is coming today
No change is coming
Nasia Safdar, MD, PhD (Faculty Member)
Focused in ED code stroke. Student standing nearby. Though busy and stressed, I called her over for short teaching. Both very appreciative. Students now not allowed. Not ignoring small opportunities with learners, family, friends that bring joy and purpose. May lose sight of true priorities while busy but don’t know when won’t have them anymore.
Kristie Chu (Fellow)
“Mom, this is not your regular 77th birthday message.
My upbringing, instilled with your trust, faith, and values;
We clash, but our relationship is strong and lasting;
‘vergeef me’, when I hurt you.
I need you to know how much I love you
in case something happens, and I can’t come home.”
J.M. Monica van de Ridder (Faculty Member)
“Well, we’re just glad we switched to you as her PCP… Mom’s last doc was too Middle Eastern.”
Wordlessly, I gesture to my name badge: five Arabic syllables next to my white-passing face.
He shifts uncomfortably before leaning forward, determined to make a smooth recovery:
“No, I mean he was like… Middle Eastern Middle Eastern.”
Samer Muallem (Faculty Member)
I still need to…
And with our might
our patient’s face suddenly emerges.
Machine air abounds
I hold my breath.
In that moment we praise mask and shield.
Before I can blink,
our airy captain re-attaches the tube.
Chuma Obineme (Fellow)
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)
I had heard about coronavirus once prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. I was studying for Step 1 and was watching SketchyMicro. The “Kingdom of SARS” sketch opened with the narrator saying “Coronavirus, it’s not a super high yield virus”. If only the creators knew that this non-high yield virus would end up changing the world.
Shilpa Ghatnekar (Medical Student)
Who am I? Now and when I’m gone.
How have I lived? How will I die?
Questions burning in my mind
Ask my mom to let me go.
This is not who I’ve chosen to be
But who I was born to be
Who I’ve grown to be
Who I may die to be.
Amanda Pensiero (Faculty Member)
An ex-wife hearing of imminent death. An interpreter conveys another failed spontaneous breathing trial. Again, a son and daughter ask why he cannot receive convalescent plasma. I lay awake hearing the words of a terrified husband- “you are my doctor, thank you”. I prepare for another day’s sorrow with an open heart and empty soul.
Noah Rosenberg (Medical Student)
the essential workers
We the intra-helpers,
of space. Lovers of
the unloved and unlovable. We
the givers of dream transfusions.
donning the same scrubs,
the same masks,
the same gear.
Turning to look
into the faces of fear
the faces of fear.
Steven T. Licardi, LMSW (Behavioral Health Clinician)
2020 was supposed to be the year of manifestation.
A pandemic shook the table and brought endless devastation.
Tragedy took Kobe and Pop Smoke.
COVID took my stepfather and the rest of my folk.
As humans, we all matter.
But all lives can’t matter until black lives matter.
Tilicea Henry (Medical Student)
He was tired and wanted to go home. This was his 14th hospitalization in 3 years. He wanted his wife, his bed and his food. We could always do more. He wanted less. The pandemic made everything uncertain. No one was wearing masks yet. But Mr C did. Cancer might get him, but coronavirus wouldn’t.
R. Michelle Schmidt, MD, MPH (Faculty Member)
Looming over her,
Yellow gown, masked,
Breath misting plastic, I barely hear:
“I can’t breathe”.
“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.
She hugs herself;
No budget for kind words.
Lisa Burback (Academic Psychiatrist)
You were excited to see me. And I? Your knee.
You called me a king; pride for me was heavier than the shackles removed.
I was envious.
We did not differ too much.
I have been on their treasure hunt for years.
Hopefully, one day, I jump through enough hoops to find my keys.
Summer solace in pandemic solitude.
Are you okay?
I just want you to know…
I don’t understand…
I don’t want to be…
Everyone is pr[a]ying.
Different agenda, same power.
I miss my underground freedom.
This newfound love is suffocating me.
Mask off. No more hiding…
Yet, I still can’t breathe.
Jason Mascoe (Medical Student)
We are sorry, you did not match to any position
Tunnel vision, seasick, mute, colorless world.
Pick up pieces, stand tall, and persevere.
Covid-19 siphon energy, dissolve opportunity.
Covid-19 deaths, screams, financial burden, social isolation.
Covid-19 innovation, virtual togetherness, newfound unity.
Develop dedication, enhance grit, broaden resourcefulness.
I am strong. We are COVID strong.
Joseph Toth (Medical Student)
I told them my name and preferred pronouns, they responded in kind.
“Pleasure to meet you.”
They said they volunteered teaching medical students about pronouns
And smiled saying, “I’m glad to see it’s working.”
“They are coming in to follow up on their chronic headaches.” I presented to my attending.
“What do you mean they?”
Jason Spicher (Medical Student)
Gasping, “Something’s wrong …. lungs”
Southern visitor to ER up North.
Has COVID-19 arrived here?
Frightened, don PPE, too late.
Lips quiver behind N95 masks.
Family sent home to quarantine, intubated alone.
Last words, “Thank you… for what you do….. I hope….. you will be OK”
Great compassion. He fights but dies.
It’s not OK.
Alisa Hayes (Faculty Member)
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)
It has been opined (by Doctors Osler, Lipkin, Charon, Ofri, and even Dr. Oz) that the “laying on of hands” by the physician during a therapeutic encounter with a patient is critical for establishing rapport and promoting healing; the so-called Loving Touch.
I am fearful that my elbow bumps are not up to the task.
Jeffrey G. Wong, MD (Faculty Member)
The asylum tree whence fell
Viands make, the sentry’s woodpile sell
The recrudescing baleful storms let rake
Of the falsity refuge yet seeking, leccy make
Unto the deific call, ever wake?
The Self unto the self else forsake?
The rolling fickle billow like, not rise and fall
Heed thou ergo the prodding Parnassian wake-up call!
Sailaja Devaguptapu (Senior Researcher)
Wake up, get up, login, treat
Hear their stories
Uncertainty, oppression, chaos, defeat
Fearful eyes, painful voices
Gulping reality one sip at a time like scalding coffee
Listen, support, find common ground
Fatigue rising, shields engaging, boundaries setting
Wake up, get up, login, treat
Israel M. Labao, MD, MPH (Resident)
Do you have a fever?
Do you have any shortness of breath or trouble breathing?
Do you have any changes in your taste or smell?
Do you have any symptoms you want to talk about?
Do you have any questions for me?
My test came back positive, should I be worried?
Jiajun Li (Student)
The world had changed
The masks I only used to see in the hospital
Are now commonplace in public
Everyone thinks so much is hidden behind the mask
But from experience, I know
It’s not as different as it seems
I can see still their smiles in their eyes
Jiajun Li (Student)
Apart but still together
These connections already exist
We were just afraid to try something different
until there is no alternative
Some say there’s no replacement for the face-to-face
Some say the connection is weak
Not real, as its name would imply
But it turns out
Sometimes, an imitation
a Virtual connection is good enough
Jiajun Li (Student)
“Most people recover” they say “This virus is no big deal.”
I see recovered COVID patients everyday; heart failure, kidney failure, liver injury, pulmonary embolisms.
Do people know?
That this is recovery.
I drive home past packed restaurants and bars.
The hospital is full. So where will these people go when they are recovering?
Amanda F. Tompkins (Medical Student)
We all wear masks in this office.
Some are made from cloth, others woven from experience.
The patient’s experiences of discrimination, desperation and dismissal
casting his face in fear.
The physician’s experiences of listening, ignoring, and rejecting
hardening her face in false empathy.
My experience as powerless witness
painting my face in a silent scream.
Rebecca Allen (Medical Student)
Breath bestows a voice to song,
But song was in the air,
Then captured by the wings
That beat as long as they could bear.
As beauty is carried in body,
So song is carried in breath;
In time, when breath has ceased then, know
The song has already left.
Alexander Thomas (Medical Student)
Vacation “Home” for vacation,
Working in, for, and from “home.”
Cooking added dopamine in dishes,
Cleaning is a new mindfulness.
“Zoom” is a new craving,
“Facetime” with family and friends is my free CBT,
“Old Fashioned” “New Yorker” “Netflix” are chips of micro-happiness,
Ongoing systole for hedonic treadmill
is now replaced with COVIDiastole.
“COVID” is a “Midas touch.”
Vijay Rajput (Faculty Member)
Up before dawn
The weight of a heavy coat
Upon her shoulders
The weight of daily suffering
Entrenched in her heart
Peeling away layers
Exposes deeply etched scars
Left behind by this life of service
The head knows it’s true
The heart pretends it will pass
The scars tell a different story
Kimberley Williamson (Registered Nurse)
When the pandemic struck, we were stopped in our tracks. Is music still relevant? Are the arts still relevant? Then the melodies began flowing again. Music is never silenced. We played together again to bring wellness to Covid patients and to restore wellness in ourselves. A way of healing, giving back, restoring our disrupted world.
Lisa Wong (Faculty Member)
March 2020 was a cold and uneasy time. We arrived to the hospital with no one in the hallways, only a screener to greet us on the frontlines.
“Do you have any fever, cough, or shortness of breath?” No symptoms, sir.
“Any contacts with someone with COVID19?” I don’t know, we do not have testing.
Juliette Perzhinsky, MD, MSc (Faculty Member)
I don’t work in the ER.
Nor in the ICU.
The traditional “COVID frontline,”
displayed on CNN,
is not my daily experience.
January was routine medication checks.
March became crisis management,
keeping stable depression and paranoia
in a depressed and paranoid pandemic.
I don’t work on traditional “frontlines,”
mental health frontlines hurt too.
Marissa Flaherty, MD (Faculty Member)
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 (Resident)
Diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, cancer.
Think of disease, what comes to mind?
In Pandemics, we are forced to ration access to care.
With masks and protective equipment, we combat a virus.
But has this increased vigilance, made us partially blind.
A scourge still overlooked by society,
Substance use disorder, so many still suffering and dying.
Rebecca Hamburger (Student)
Kultaj Kaleka, RN (Faculty Member)
Juliette Perzhinsky, MD, MSc (Faculty Member)
On worn waiting room chairs, I held her thin, papery hand- gold band secured between arthritic knots. “No, you can’t stay with him. No visitors.” Isolation, protocol, pandemic- excuses that could not excuse tearing apart the decades of tucked midnight embraces. Milky halos encompassing the blueness of her eyes. A blink, a departure, alone.
Rebecca Tuttle, MD, MS (Faculty Member)
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 will order,
Anything else I can help you with,
Do you have any questions…
How are you?
Hannah Mulvey Ferrera (Medical Student)
The box arrives after dark. Parts eagerly scattered across the floor. Fat black cushions. Gyrating legs. So many classic plastic wheels. Calling it an office chair is unimaginative. A throne? Facetious. A saddle, perhaps? Screws twisted. Joints locked. A lovingly assembled new home. I climb in and spin around, ready for the long journey ahead.
Benjamin French (Medical Student)
A lightening bolt in my electronic health record.
Covid – still early, we know so little.
Masked, scrubbed, extra cautious.
Worrying about exposed family.
Daily Health Department check-ins
The national numbers have reached one million.
Days pass, my birthday in quarantine
My daughter sends a cake.
I celebrate being okay.
Karen Szauter (Administrator)
“I’m a fighter,” she says, blisters across expanses of skin, like the illness is trying to climb its way out. “Remember this: surround yourself with the right people. Because I didn’t.”
Later, I stand on my balcony, alone. My hands are full, people I love available at the swipe of a finger. The world spins.
Jennifer Li (Medical Student)
Stone-faced and somber, the new patient sat behind the partition with an untrusting glare. “Are you scared I’m gonna choke you?” “No sir, just trying to keep us both safe from the virus”. “Oh, that hoax everyone keeps talking about”? One side of his mouth curls upwards in amusement. Just another day in forensic psychiatry.
Scott Leary, MS4 (Medical Student)
We can no longer stay here. It is not right.
Being treated by a different standard for bringing my own PPE.
But I want to protect myself, my patients, and my family.
Am I really doing wrong by advocating during a pandemic?
I want to fly with my swarm,
but where are they?
Juliette Perzhinsky, MD, MSc (Faculty Member)
An unexpected gift, inadvertent sounds from unmuted classmates—
rhythms like palpitations as a car drives past his window,
a quiet voice asks what time she’d like dinner,
the stuttering of a chair pulled closer to the table,
fluttering of flipped pages, skittering steps of pets;
the small intimacies of our
Elizabeth Jakubowski (Medical Student)
“ You must be frontline”
“ I am doing televisits for now”
The hospital is eerie and quiet outside
Residents crowd together
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)
We give each other company, Fear and I
Sometimes in the absence of others,
Sometimes in a room so full, you cannot see your own feet
Fear can take a lifetime to wrangle away
But one moment, one instance
Leaves us vulnerable to Fear’s claws
Claws sunk so deep, you feel them with every breath.
Nikitha Pothireddy (Medical Student)
She can’t stay seated, fake lashes concealing tears.
Her husband is at home due to the pandemic restrictions.
Oh, my baby, she screams, aerosolizing her grief into the room.
The diagnosis slowly bruises her mind like leukemia into her son’s body.
He’s our youngest. He still sleeps with us.
She wishes he had COVID-19 instead.
Benjamin Drum (Resident)
I cut my nails to the quick that night. God forbid my body betray me or my family, virus somewhere I couldn’t scrub clean. The morning: first COVID patient, ICU transfer, her survival a blessing, her gratitude shattering. Remembering my oath, I leaned stethoscope close, listened, touched. Finally—home. Scalding shower. Called kids; dinner alone.
Sarah L. Clever, MD, MS, FACP (Faculty Member)
I wake up at 7:45. I shower while listening to two Teddy-Afro songs. I get dressed. I quickly type in the password to my computer and pull up my zoom. I yawn, sip my instant coffee, and glance over at the picture of me and my mom. I smile and turn on my camera.
Maranatha Genet (Medical Student)
We’re a month in, but I still don’t really know any of you.
“These people will become your family,” I’m told over and over. To be fair, I haven’t gotten to see my actual family outside of video chats, either, so maybe it’s still true.
The top one-third of your faces seem very kind, though.
Hannah R. Dischinger (Resident)
I am ready.
I have passed my exams and performed well in the core clerkships.
I am motivated, young, healthy.
Put me to work. I can help.
But I am stuck at home. Useless.
Quarantined with my knowledge and experience.
Mere months from finishing my training.
We are an untapped resource and we are ready.
Rachel Fields (Medical Student)
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)
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)
Her pupils widen at his radiant coat,
And body winces at devices dangling about his throat.
Showing demeanor of an impending escape or brawl,
I’m sure her perspiration is mostly cortisol.
As previous traumas amplify current fears,
The only diagnostic tools he can rely upon are his ears.
Rachel Roy (Medical Student)
How hard it is to stay home.
I think about how we are all participating and doing the right thing. I appreciate that lots of peoples lives will be saved in hospitals because of you. Don’t you ever wish that coronavirus wasn’t here and that there were no viruses in the world?
Can you imagine that?
Lauren Fine, MD (Faculty Member) in collaboration with Emma Fine
Unwound, we were and still are unraveling. In many ways, we feel paralyzed in March forever.
There’s a fire burning in the distance. What has happened to my city? Try to stare at the screen. Distant sirens ring. Just try to focus. A three digit score can give you the world- what’s left of it.
Zoha Huda (Medical Student)
These days you understand me more than before
We long for the loved ones who we’re not able to see
We worry for them
We look tired in the mornings, wondering all night how next day will be
But everyday your warm thoughts melt my plastic costume
So happy to see each other again
Dana Giza (Fellow)
Zoom. Botched audio, reactions delayed. The way “genuine” connections start these days.
Pre-med, curly hair, Atlanta – the topics of discussion. 1.5 hours, I realized I’d found a good person.
A person who’s genuine, kind, and shares quite a few interests of mine.
A person whose friendship I could see standing the test of time.
Sydni Williams (Medical Student)
We were both wearing masks when I evaluated you—a 90-something year-old WWII veteran.
You were only 20 serving in an airborne bombing squad. What was it like to be a witness to the first nuclear bomb to detonate in war?
You heartrendingly shared that the fallout killed many and this COVID19 pandemic felt similar.
Juliette Perzhinsky, MD, MSc, (Faculty Member)
Rebecca Hamburger (Medical Student)
I could list each sacrifice made studying medicine on my fingers. Late studying, lesser parties, fewer friends.
Now, I watch professionals self-isolate in garages. Others explain quitting. A mentor describes sinophobic experiences. My mother recovers to alleviate her coworkers’ burden. Friends attend morning funerals online, studying at night.
Sacrifice is too messy for one finger.
Shubhi Singh (Medical Student)
We are the brea (d) th of Evolution, Creation and The Divine.
Generations before us, molded this For-Ever-ness of Us. Thriving, excelling, and flourishing. We Breathe.
Carving Tomorrows. Creating Flourish. For those who come after Us.
“Here. We are still. Here.”
Adwoa Osei, MD FAAP (Faculty Member)
My daughter just turned one. She likes to play pull-the-mask-off-mommy’s-face. We stayed home from March to June, took clerkships online, sat for boards, got a puppy, read a lot of Winnie-the-Pooh and Goodnight Moon. I became essential. I got what I longed for – family, and a course in courage, reflection, and how-to-be-a-Mom.
Laura Jorgenson (Medical Student)
Distance from each other…
But are we distant from the invisible virus?
Fighting a battle with an enemy with a new guise.
Will medical knowledge and technology change the course THIS time?
In the end, will this new enemy change the way of being…
Or maybe through these perils, we will understand our own essence.
Nivedita Thakur, MD (Faculty Member)
My grandfather calls my father for the third time. He does not remember the previous calls. He’s scared and doesn’t know why he is in the nursing home, even though this has been his home for the past year. He thinks the staff is keeping something from him. He thinks he may have the virus.
Olivia A Murray (Medical Student)
… who said she couldn’t:
Survive medical school: “you’re not a good test-taker”
Obtain a fellowship: “must have ‘connections’ ”
Direct a program: “young, inexperienced”
Run a board meeting: “you don’t know enough”
…who cheered her on:
Holding her son, husband’s hand on her back, her father’s words remembered:
“You’re a strong woman”.
Taraneh Soleymani, MD (Faculty Member)
It was 1987
I was a medical student
I’m a medical student
I was in an epicenter
I am in an epicenter
There was no cure
There is no cute
My people are dying
My people are dying
I am scared for my daughter.
I am hopeful because of my father.
Carrie Crook (Medical Student) in collaboration with Dr. Errol Crook
It’s Monday morning and I must attend another Zoom conference of multiple heads on a monitor. Some participants don’t use video. Disrespectful? Bad WiFi? Not Dressed? Eating breakfast? Opportunity for multitasking? What’s the best way to engage remotely? On-line polling or breakout rooms? I feel desperate for a real connection, I need a hug.
Kathleen Nelson (Administrator)
“The treatment isn’t working anymore” I say.
“That’s quite alright.” she says.
“Would you like to see the chaplain?”
“Later.” A tear runs down her cheek. “Can you pray with me?”
I’ve never been religious, but I sit down, hold her hand, close my eyes and let the peace silence brings wash over us.
Onyebuchi Okeke (Medical Student)
My patient who can’t speak can’t have her husband visit.
Her kidney is failing.
She started to cry.
I couldn’t give her a hug.
Between glasses, masks, a shield, I’m part of a faceless team.
A tissue passed between gloved hands serves as empathy.
Who gets used to this?
I don’t know that I can.
Jennifer Ferrante (Medical Student)
I cannot wipe your tears on Zoom or place my hand on your shoulders as you tell me about the death. If I was in your presence, I would not be able to come by your side. I can only comfort you with my voice and teach you what I know about life and medicine.
Gauri Agarwal (Administrator)
It was dark inside, harsh noises outside.
Strong winds—a hurricane— stealing my breath away,
depriving the light of tomorrow.
It is my time, time to get out.
A droplet reflects my wings,
Are they broken or are they stronger?
I take a jump and soar high; I learn and fight.
Vivian V. Altiery De Jesús, MBE (Medical Student)
His wife takes notes with shaky hands.” Kidneys – stable; cancer – progressing.”
“I don’t want you to be in intensive care unit again.”
I don’t want it either.
Six months later, a letter:
“We appreciated your
the e-messages after hours.
“It is too quiet around here without Randy.”
Gurwant Kaur (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)
Hello, it’s strange. Visits over the phone.
Ok. We haven’t talked since it started.
Trying their best.
I understand. Must be difficult. A lot of changes.
Yes. Too many changes. And you?
Safe. I hope you are as well. That’s why I’m calling. And my breathing is getting better.
Ann Lee (Faculty Member)
For Once, I take a
Moment for our nature.
To see stories unspoken
Behind smiling eyes.
To finally forget
The lip’s wasted language
and other luxuries.
For once I find myself
Observing human harmony
Within the realm of discord.
I take a moment for myself
To take in the natural world.
John Newman (Medical Student)
Words escape in muffled
with breath that’s
puffed and pushed
to pluck some meaning
from the noise.
Then sucking hard
to find the oxygen
inside the small blue crown
that sits upon my lips
and stains my cheeks
with pain in service
to my lungs
to stop the silent plague
from getting in.
Elizabeth Mitchell (Faculty Member)
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)
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)
She lies in bed, chest rising and falling,
Her breath the sound of sweeping
Through glass shards.
On her window the patter
Of rain overlies a scene of budding
Leaves along the Huron.
This is how they pass.
The white gown
A forerunner to the shroud.
The last breaths turbulent
Natalie Ailene Moreno (Medical Student)
You can’t be by your loved one’s side
You can’t be here
The virus looms here
You can’t give one last touch
You can’t give one last kiss
You will have to just watch
As breath slows, the heart slows
You can’t be here
The Virus looms here.
Stephen Paul Wood (Administrator)
Familiar blue and white screen. Blocks and explanations that stopped connecting one pandemic ago. Inside is turmoil but outside is pure chaos. Do questions or ask questions of the world? Why weren’t we prepared, why are my people dying or, what causes clots to form? Will I get these answers now or after the MD?
Azana Newman (Medical Student)
Alone. Days, weeks, months. Intimate familiarity with architecture. Waking up to a repeat sing song, “I’m scared, I’m scared, I’m scared.”
Is that bird chirping my anxieties?
A world-wide panic attack. We are all alone together. Memories lay down on new moments and time becomes a thing to ponder. Weeks, months, years. Alone?
Chase Crossno (Faculty Member)
Death, everywhere. In NY, my home, in the hospital, the world. I cry for the losses: weddings, birthdays, family, life. I cry for the people who choose to doubt instead of support. As if we chose this field not to help but to make political statements. I cry for patients: scared, confused, sick. I cry.
Danielle Cirillo (Resident)
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)
Now with mask and face shield but no patient interactions for five months,
are these newly minted third year medical students ready for clerkships? Am I ready?
Imprinting: watch me closely but not too closely. Grow and be yourselves.
I pray, let the enthusiasm for the profession persist in these young minds and hearts.
Rebecca R. Pauly, MD (Faculty Member)
Prospects darkened pre-pandemic.
Foggy thoughts clouded the brilliant mind.
Weathered hurricanes that came with destructive fury but did depart.
Exempted by age. Isolated for safety. Exhausted by the marathon.
Surrounded with gale-force pressures. Tasks demanded. Teams prepared.
Would a hug have squeezed out the insidious inside?
Social distance maintained. Thunderous goodbye. Yet, unheard.
March 13: Another waitlist.
March 15: Lockdown tomorrow. Grocery store trip.
March 16: Unemployed.
March 22: Offering to reschedule your wedding.
May 6: Wedding… is… postponed. No acceptances… No job…
June 2: Off the waitlist!
June 5: Zoom courthouse wedding!
June 6: Cross-country move!
July 15: Welcome to MS1!
Poke a hole in the sky, now
On air in mid-air,
Words warped by the warp.
I should be grateful
For such sci-fi conjury.
Do what I can with invisible hands.
In a viral environ,
Reins far-flung up close.
On a phlegmatic circuit,
We look through the tunnel,
The simulacrum of healing.
Michael Stephen Miller, MD (Faculty Member)
“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
David Gao (Medical Student)
It is tender hearted – brigade of nurses
From upstate – arriving downstate,
Bearing their families’ state of mind:
Go and serve,
We bear your absence here –
With your presence there.
John F. DeCarlo (Faculty Member)
1998: Hiding in the attic. “Shhhh,” Baba whispered. “No refugees here,” Jordanian police said.
1999: Mama said “America where people are free and safe” accepted us.
2020: Pandemic. Despair. Racism. 7,791 miles. Iraq to America. Still not enough to escape injustice.
White coat hangs, symbolizing the force that preserves life, instead of destroying it.
Shams Nassir (Medical Student)
“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)
Never ending war, repression of basic human rights, and scarce quality education pushed my family to leave our home and risk imprisonment and the dangers of human trafficking. The US beckoned with abundant opportunities from across the Atlantic, masking the reality that it will always reduce me to the color of my skin first.
Daniom Tecle (Medical Student)
My intern and I stand with an ipad to facetime the family -too far away, with travel restrictions. The grandmother starts to keen at the sight of her boy. He is too still now, fixed and dilated, only ventilator breaths. “He cannot be that!” broken English, broken hearts, broken composure and we all weep together.
Katherin Mason (Faculty Member)
A duckbill mask filled with the pale blue remnants of what were once elastic straps. Through punched holes, I weave thin strips of Coban and tie ugly little knots. My hair twists mutinously around these new, cumbersome straps. I swear I hear the sickly snap of each breaking strand. I never liked arts and crafts.
Nina Lemieux (Medical Student)
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 (Resident)
We were two friends starting off our very first rotation. She is white and I am Indian, which made the difference. The questions started immediately.
“But where are you from?” “Are you Dr. Ahmed’s daughter?” “Love your tan skin.”
Though they were harmless, my friend never got these comments. It happens, even in a pandemic.
Meha Shah (Medical Student)
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)
Their dream was medicine, but it was not easy. They failed and tried again multiple times. The feeling that came with their success was immeasurable. All the sleepless nights, the stress, sacrifices, and hard work paid off. Then they hear “its easier for you because of your ethnicity.” Just like that, their story was erased.
Sanga Shir (Medical Student)
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?
Hair cap, N95, surgical face mask, face shield.
My daily armor
I smile, but they cannot see.
My eyes are all that are available
No family, no friends allowed; they are alone and afraid.
Compassion and love
From my soul, through my touch and my eyes
I hope to provide.
Kavita Shah (Faculty Member)
Good news is a breath of fresh air
A smile long gone, one can finally wear
Baby can finally eat
Smoking – finally quit
Can walk again instead of sit
The mask that protects, also hides
The greatest emotion we feel inside
Joy – a contagion free of harm
Hidden now – replaced with alarm.
Maria Shields (Medical Student)
“Tell me about your pain?”
The tears fell.
I expected the story of the left lower quadrant pain, which had brought her in.
“My mother, she broke her hip and she’s all alone.”
For a moment, I thought of my list of post-ops, the night already gone.
I pulled up a chair, “Tell me more.”
Chidinma S. Tiko-Okoye (Resident)
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)
I ran along the dusty road,
To escape the loneliness and pain untold.
Toward the old woman sitting on the porch I plodded,
She became my beacon given what life had allotted.
A stranger she remains in every sense except one,
Everyday without knowing it she saves me, with a simple wave on my run.
In silence, scrolling through “gallery view” to make friends. In person meetings create a 10-person community but it’s more than spotty online connections can do. “This ain’t college” and it certainly doesn’t feel like it. The upcoming unknown feels overwhelming but I am reassured that I’m not the only one who feels this way.
Sarah Gold (Medical Student)
Close the program. Voluntary? Hardly. Inevitable. Yes.
Told residents. Told faculty. We mourned.
Saved the best for last said residents. End of an era said faculty. We planned a celebration.
COVID-19. Black Lives Matter. We shifted attention to more important issues.
Turned off the lights and closed the door. Silent goodbye. No we. Only me.
Lisa Gilmer (Faculty Member)
The fall and rise, breathing holds no lies
I see you suffer, you think you are tougher
This disease is new to us, you have lost your trust
I want you to believe in our guidance and care, can we meet there?
If you refuse, you perish, your loved ones you will fail to cherish.
Anitha Chandran (Resident)
There was a day when life felt warm; serene and calm,
Perhaps foretold of an approaching storm,
Then there is today, like a shadowy squall,
As life dissipated into a helpless yowl,
But there is always tomorrow, unseen but felt
Of hope and love, far but near,
Like a story of history and time itself.
Hamza Ali Lodhi (Fellow)
Chart review: 82 y/o female with multiple cancer relapses and a poor prognosis.
”I married my high school love sixty years back. We travelled, raised kids and are blessed with great-grandkids. I have had a wonderful life ”
She started treatment before I was even born.
I wondered if I was with the wrong patient.
Roshan Chudal (Resident)
“So you’re who I have to blame for my hoarseness?” said my former ICU patient. “But you were REALLY really sick…” In that moment, you understood: your eyes filled with tears and gratitude, as did mine, and we were two doctors both crying over Zoom as we stared at each other, thankful to be alive.
Lekshmi Santhosh (Faculty Member)
Moved cross-country to start medical school.
All day I learn science and humanities
So that I won’t lose my humanity
When my future patients need it most.
Isolated from old friends by distance
And from new friends by COVID-19,
Somehow cares for our son without me.
Zachary Jensen (Medical Student)
The wedding was canceled. A package came from my mom – two masks, one white with lace, one black with a bowtie. We asked our Medicine program director to marry us on the nearby bridge. We walked down the street, our families in our pockets, our dog replacing the bridal party. It was wonderful.
Sarah Rhoads (Resident)
Back at the hospital, finally. It has been months. Everything is different. I no longer see mouths or facial expressions due to masks- only eyes. I struggle to connect with my patients and colleagues. No encouraging smiles. No handshakes. No intimate gestures of comfort. I feel inept when stripped of using body language in medicine.
Rachel Fields (Medical Student)
My smile wanders, searching for a way
past my polypropylene mask to you
from my eyes to your eyes through a plane of plastic
from my hand to your hand through a layer of latex
buzzing by my vocal cords to reach your empty ears
in small words floating through the filtered air between us.
Vishesh Jain (Resident)
A chair and a desk
In the basement of my home.
Isolation, fear, uncertainty.
A light and a chime
From the screen of my computer
doubt, nervousness, anxiety.
A laugh and a voice
Fills the air in my room.
Resilience, hope, reverie.
Notes and drawings
Sprawled across my desk.
Excitement, zeal, fervency.
Connection can heal.
Peter Vollbrecht (Faculty Member)
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.
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.
Connections with patients form the foundation of trust
That connection used to evolve from a smile or gentle touch
Now, I smile at patients, forgetting that the smile is hidden behind my mask
I look into their eyes and see their fears and hopes
We continue on and make new connections through all the uncertainty.
Eleny Romanos-Sirakis (Faculty Member)
Our eyes now smile for our mouths that have lost the privilege. They pierce through the tension engendered by collective fear to remind us that we are still human, and that we still have the propensity to love one another. Our eyes protect us by bringing us together, while keeping us apart.
Mika Mintz (Medical Student)
Our crisis wears on
And life still creates challenges
New and old to all
I know what I’ve kept
I see what others have lost
Hardships, they abound
You are on my mind
My heart goes out to you all
who give in these times
Thank you for everything you do.
Fatima Chagani (Medical Student)
We are hunkered down afraid to breathe
Looking for hope
Within this long night
We lost a lot
Fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, Husbands, wives
Alas children too
Let us fight for rights
Of those vulnerable
Let us equalize the breath
Give a gift of safe breathing space
For colors of the heart are the same.
Manveen Saluja, MD (Faculty Member)
Balancing on tightrope
Rural America and inner-city staring me down
Death haunting those I love
Lack of hospitals- grim reaper looming
Family casualties in the war of inequality and racism
New threat of COVID-19- misinformation rising
The first medical degree- potential savior
A long path- bringing awareness hopefully home.
Evelyn Darden (Medical Student)
I tell her she has a rare cancer. My voice is shaky. She laughs. She says, “Why me? Why not me?” We laugh together.
She doesn’t cry. I would have cried with her if she did. I couldn’t have handed her a tissue if she did. it’s a video visit.
I can’t hold her hands.
Zehra Tosur (Faculty Member)
Filtered breath escapes between my mask and nose,
fogging shield, yet
I clearly see your worried brow.
Cloth and plastic
muffle voices, disguise faces, lips
cannot hide smiling eyes.
I would grasp your warm hands
with my inevitably cold ones, tactile sensate
Gloved must do
haptics muted by clammy nitrile
cannot dull a healing touch.
Lealani Mae Acosta, MD, MPH (Faculty Member)
Ms. J cried, then apologized
for crying. After surgery,
I worried about her.
It was mid-March. I didn’t know what was safe.
But she was afraid, so I visited her.
She told me, “It’s too much.”
I listened. I kept my distance.
I worried about the breath
that carried my words. Still,
this felt essential.
Sharada Narayan (Medical Student)
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 (Administrator)
A Vermont lake cabin reserved for childhood weekends suddenly became our home for three months. My fiancée and I arrived in early March, early enough to watch the spring ice melt. We cancelled our forthcoming wedding, baked sourdough bread, and warily, perhaps idyllically, welcomed a new, inexplicable world.
Andrew Catomeris (Medical Student)
Ever since COVID, my patients have been scared and alone. No measure of facetime will suffice in exchange for physical presence of family and friends at bedside. That’s why it’s ever more important these days for us doctors to offer a kind word of encouragement and a hand to hold.
Julian Swanson (Faculty Member)
Knitting has always been my companion; in COVID, we grew closer. She brought purpose to my hands when touch was no longer an option. She made me feel useful as the world crumbled and roused parts of my brain through creativity. Together, we discovered what could be as yarn unraveled and color returned from darkness.
Judith Brenner (Administrator)
His days are long at sixty,
As they have always been.
His eyes closed briefly between cases
When the adrenaline fades.
His cough is better now.
My time is still consumed by
Books and flashcards and
Mock patient encounters,
But I’m coming, Dad.
I’ll be there soon.
Winston Whiting Oliver (Medical Student)
Emotions have been everywhere. Students care and want to see patients. Residents want to experience the pandemic upfront. We must let them. We must support them. We must protect them. We must keep ourselves whole. We must let patients see our hearts and imagine our faces. We must breathe. We must teach. We must heal.
Regina Macatangay, MD (Faculty Member)
She’d only let her phone ring once before she excitedly answered.
“Hi, honey! How’s work?”
“We had our first COVID patient today.”
She sat down, silently.
“It’s bad.” He paused. “Don’t…come home tonight. Just stay at your mom’s for now.”
“Until it’s over.”
“But when is that?”
“…I don’t know.” He whispered.
Estelle Vu (Medical Student)
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)
Sick teen, dialysis. Went to tell her mother: ‘no changes’. She told me the loss of an infant prepared her for this child’s diagnosis, and another daughter’s. Four months ‘cancer-free’ before relapse. Grateful for ‘the talk’… “it was OK to die”. I listened, thanked her. Through PPE, I touched her shoulder: “see you tomorrow”. Tears.
Don Batisky, MD (Faculty Member)
Breaking through societal imposed expectations, statistics, and reignited resentment.
Proceeding through a heightened awareness of what Mr.Roth would refer to as The Human Stain.
I rebuke self-imposed limitations. My mind is durable, my will is tenacious, and my humanity will serve all the same.
Vanessa Vides (Medical Student)
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.
We patiently wait.
“…..mine says nonreactive.”
Tiffany Rebecca Sánchez (Medical Student)
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)
Your wan face appears on my screen.
A voice I don’t know says something I can’t make out.
You are small amongst white sheets and blue tubes.
Silent amongst beeps and alarms.
Still amongst calamity.
The heat of your skin after gardening on a sun-scorched day or making love-
a distant memory.
Nan Barbas (Faculty Member)
Social distancing isolated him, and left him time to think,
A window into what might wait for him after retirement.
To avoid his future, his pain, led him to drink,
And so he came to us. We removed his shroud.
He stepped from our hands to the care of others.
We stood together, fighting despair.
Philip Brown (Medical Student)
“There’s no heartbeat”, she says.
Numbly trudge back to work to face another day.
First patient: “Been praying for you every day. You pregnant yet?”
I burst into tears. Very professional.
An ample, yet firm, gentle, yet strict grandmother of 11, she gives me the only comfort I’ll feel today.
A mother’s hug.
Eliana Hempel (Faculty Member)
Med school, such an incredibly hard endeavor for it’s subjects. Imagine starting your first semester just to have a hurricane blow by in September and wreck your island. Couple of years later get a 6.4 magnitude earthquake followed by the COVID-19 a couple of months later. WE WILL PREVAIL!
Jaime A. Roman (Medical Student)
Quarantine breeds stress
Thoughts race, water runs, dishes soak, the cassoulet breaks
Blood between thumb and index finger pools
Left arm raised high
Call the PCP, stay calm
They’ll see me
Thankful for community-based-care, my kind DO
Asked what I needed, listened and validated all the feelings.
Ali Smolinski (Administrator)
and old photographs
make me cry.
the limited time
pills large and small
constrict my throat.
fugues in time
swim before my eyes.
The touch of your hands
hope in your eyes
the smile on your face
are all I need to go on.
Ananya Das (Research Proposal Specialist)
“Why dad doesn’t wanna wear a mask? I told him to! He doesn’t care!” —says the boy, while pulling the beanie down to his nose, drying his tears. “Does he wanna die of COVID and not be with me?”
My first Tuesday’s Children at the Psychiatric Clinic. I was wearing a colorful ribbon as requested.
Angélica Nieves-Rivera (Medical Student)
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)
A year earlier, no one would have believed you; that Puerto Rico would live through two major earthquakes and a pandemic in the span of 5 months. Yet, here we are. The psychological and financial impact of the earthquakes was worsened by the pandemic. Nevertheless, we as medical students continue to prepare for tomorrow.
Ramon Misla David (Medical Student)
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 (Resident)
A once bustling unit transformed.
All patients were moved.
Short-lived quiet set in,
Broken by the construction crew,
Adding monitors, exhaust fans to the windows.
Would this be another COVID ICU?
Overnight every bed would be occupied.
This process repeated day after day,
Spreading throughout the hospital like a virus.
Back to work.
Steven J. Sperber, MD (Faculty Member)
Gloved hand caresses her head, grey-white hair soaked with sweat
She looks at me, fearful, breathing strained
A mask shields my worry
My face should not be the last she would see
She slips into sleep
Hang fluids, give pressors, change the vent
Googles fogging, I’m now sweat-drenched
She is a nurse too
Stephen Paul Wood (Administrator)
She presented with another Sickle Cell Crisis, day before her 22nd birthday.
My first patient as an intern.
Bilateral leg ulcers visible to the eye. Tulips delivered from her twin brother the night before.
Intravenous fluids, Dilaudid, and Oxygen.
Morning rounds, code called. Compressions performed, unsuccessful.
Beautiful peacefulness in her eyes, flowers at her bedside.
Stephen Henderson (Faculty Member)
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)
For my patient, I act as their loved one.
Standing vigil outside a glass door,
holding their hand in my gloved palms,
watching over them behind googles and mask.
For loved ones, I am the sole soul
standing between their family member
and the dark cloak of Death
who paces the halls watching in turn.
Sara Journeay (Resident)
Donning PPE, my gloved hand on his shoulder, “Sir, you have coronavirus.”
He didn’t move. His foot handcuffed to bedrail.
His dad died last week from the virus. Didn’t see him. Didn’t make the funeral.
“Doc, my cellie kept coughing. No way to keep us 6 feet apart. No masks. No cleaning supplies.”
Priti Dangayach (Faculty Member)
It came out of nowhere when you left;
It was crime, it was theft.
Your time was short but your legacy long,
We will celebrate your life in dance and song.
I can’t say I’ve struggled like you;
But I can say I’ve been low too.
Your pain was unique;
But peace, we all seek.
Onyebuchi Okeke (Medical Student)
I wake up. Put on a mask. Can’t breathe. We sit with white coats and laptops, discussing patients with hours left. My patient grabs my hand. “It’s okay, I’m not afraid. I know where I’m going.” Tennis ball in my throat. Can’t breathe. Pager beeps: “Need you to declare time of death.” No more breath.
Mikaela Katz (Resident)
Like an encroaching storm, COVID-19 gains momentum. An ominous sky foreshadows masked isolation and death. Discontented winds sweep the land. The burden of racial injustice saturates the dark clouds, erupting in pelting rain, each drop stinging wherever it lands. Hailstones of racial violence add destruction to the deluge. Will a rainbow follow this national maelstrom?
Michael P. Flanagan, MD (Faculty Member)
Like stars we shine and burn
Like a noble army of white coats
In eternal defense of the earth from the moon.
Armed with any number of antidotes
To save all but ourselves. For we are not immune.
Like stars we shine and burn
And burn out.
Matt Tsai (Medical Student)
Once she sees my raven hair and “exotic” features, will she ask me to go, ok?
As I flip another intubated COVID patient prone to ease his breathing,
I study his brown and yellow life lines.
Will I be a chink and someone’s armed, or
Will I be identified for who I am?
Lealani Mae Acosta, MD, MPH (Faculty Member)
They say, “It’s not a great time to enter medicine”.
They say, “This country is fractured beyond repair”.
“So America is like a skeleton”?
“Then who’s better to repair,
than those in healthcare”?
We might be scared of what’s to come.
But we will work til’ we’ve gone numb.
Lauren Pomerantz (Medical Student)
The nurses in the CCU
used to make their calls
at 4 a.m.: “Come in at once.”
Loved ones would hurry in
just in time
told hold a hand.
But now the spouses,
lying all alone at home,
listen to the dreaded midnight
message on the telephone,
then try, but fail,
to fall asleep again.
Joseph Gascho (Faculty Member)
After years of resisting distraction by computer screens during office visits, my patients have ironically become one.
Where touch and gestures are limited, the pace and tone of our voices, tools unfettered by telemedicine, become essential.
Simply reassuring patients that we are here for them despite not being there in person goes a long way.
Jillian Pecoriello (Medical Student) in collaboration with Dr. Jeffrey Millstein
You can no longer recite your hopes and aspirations, but I’ve held the brain that formatted them. You can no longer communicate your hardships of life, but I’ve retraced all the scars etched in your skin. You can no longer tell me, but your body speaks for you. What a beautiful life you lived. Jesseca PirkleMedical Student
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 KhanMedical Student
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. SaltzmanResident
Another invisible war to fight. Headline news – “in these unprecedented times of uncertainty.” I am confused, what are we referring to, COVID-19 or how I’ve felt my whole life as a black man in America? Pause, breathe, think. Maybe knowing is not important because something is different this time. Ironically, I don’t feel alone. AnonymousMedical Student
Francisco J. Lopez-FontMedical Student
We pray before dawnPreparing our walk along the RippowamProtect us, protect our child, give us strength Holding coffee and handsWe turn quietly up BroadProtect us, protect our child, give us peace We kiss before maskingI follow her tired eyes and growing wombProtect her, protect our child, help us all Ethan McGannMedical Student
I am not scared of death, but the uncertainties of lifeEveryday i go to bed with my faith to wake up alive Sometimes worried about the fall, yet I am standing tallIt’s “Hippocratic Oath” Guys! All troubles seems small Let’s embrace the uncertainties with responsibilityTo defeat the virus, racism, stigma & inhumanity… Jarina Begum, MDFaculty Member
Two girls were born on the same daythousands of miles apart. They grew up speaking Spanish.Thirty years later, CoVID and pregnancy would bring them to meet across an ICU window.Over shared prayers and a rosary;intubation;delivery;finally – a crying baby at home with his mom.It’s our birthday this week. Diana RoblesFellow
The AAMC is currently collecting original 55-word stories and poems (with or without images) that capture health care professionals’ and trainees’ experiences during these unprecedented times. To submit your original work, use the submission form linked here.
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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,Hugging,Sharing,Childhood spring and summers.Smiles covered by masks, tears visible.Love,Mama and Papa C. Paula Lewis-de los Angeles, MD, PhD (Resident) and William Lewis-de los Angeles, MD (Faculty Member)
Brandon A. DurantResident
“What’s your name?”The dreaded questionYou can’t pronounce itI’ll have to spell it outRepeat myselfDo I butcher the very thing that identifies meFor your easeOr suffer through the routineOf trying to assuage your discomfortI love my nameI hate the way you make me feel about it Anmol HansMedical Student
He was young. He was loved. With every chest compression we heard his voice, the wails of his family. We worked our hardest. For two hours we tried and tried. But it was for naught. For he was long gone. We said our goodbyes. Now its back to work. Another life saved. Another life lost. AnonymousFaculty Member
I can’t breathe. Is it the seal of an N95 respiratorOr the sole of a black leather boot crushing my windpipe#SupportHealthcareHeroesUntil, like Breonna Taylor, our black and brown skin is no longer made palatable by whiteWhite ambulances, coats, and hospital badgesMake us essential personnel but not essential persons Aaminah AzharMedical Student