Most doctors don’t spend their first day of training on the front lines of a global pandemic. However, on March 24, 2020, NYU Grossman School of Medicine became the first medical school in the country to give its students the option to graduate early to join the fight against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
On Dr. Gabriela Ulloa’s first day as a physician at NYU Langone Health’s Tisch Hospital, New York lost 481 people to COVID-19. Dr. Ulloa had been confident in her pursuit of medicine, valuing caring for and building relationships with patients. When the pandemic began surging in New York, doctors and patients were separated not only by the physical barriers of face masks and other protective equipment, but also time, as the number of patients cut down on the time available physicians could be with them.
Dr. Ulloa tells The New York Times about an older patient she was assigned last May, who had an infection whose source was unclear. One evening, the patient needed a blood transfusion.
“I know it’s hard getting this thrown at you,” Dr. Ulloa told her.
“I wish I could have my family here,” the patient said, her voice so quiet that Dr. Ulloa had to strain to make it out.
“It’s hard doing this without your friends and family,” Dr. Ulloa agreed.
Dr. Ulloa likened the experience to a pediatric unit before the pandemic. Cut off from family, patients with COVID-19 craved certainty, and did not always know what would happen to them. Hundreds of caregivers, like Dr. Ulloa, were crucial in giving these patients as much time, comfort, and assurance as possible.
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