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ER Doctors Roll Up Their Sleeves

February 18, 2021

An inch and a half-long silver needle travelled through my skin. I felt the 0.3 milliliters of liquid - about a few teardrops worth - spread. I texted my mom, a nurse, a picture of me holding my vaccination card. "I'm crying. So happy", she said. With a mask shielding the bottom two-thirds of my face, you would know I was smiling only by the wrinkles that formed at the sides of my eyes. The wrinkles stayed for a long while.

I'm a doctor training to specialize in emergency medicine. I photographed a handful of my co-workers with the band-aids they received after the COVID-19 vaccine needle left their skin. The band-aid has become a symbol of science and medicine's efforts to end this pandemic, to fight back. For months, many of us wondered when the strip of adhesive would be stuck onto our upper arms. The time has come. And the day for your band-aid is coming soon too.

As I took their portraits, I asked my colleagues to think about where we've been and where we're headed. It was wonderful to see their faces again. Eventually, when the masks come off for good, I look forward to seeing smiles again, not just the wrinkles around our eyes.

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Samantha Huo, MD

“North Philly was already facing an epidemic of gun violence and opioids long before COVID came along - and those crises were only compounded by the pandemic in 2020. My patients are so resilient, and it is such a privilege to learn from and take care of them every day.

I’m most looking forward to spending time with my family. We’re spread out around the country so I’m just excited to see everyone together in one place.”

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Kurt Channick, MD

“In a hospital without visitors, the isolation and seclusion is what struck me the most. Nobody wants to die alone. When the world is looking to you for diagnoses and treatments, sometimes a hand to hold is what the patient wants most.

I most look forward to the day I can safely spend time with my family. Oh, and go to a Sixers game.”

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Shannon Wright, MD

“I helped a patient sing happy birthday to their grandchild over FaceTime. I think we’ve all had moments during the surge where we feel limited in what we can provide for patients who are so sick. It was a nice reminder that there are places where kindness can go even if medicine can’t reach yet.

I can’t wait to hug my grandma! It will be nice to eventually know what all my colleagues’ faces look like in their entirety, and explore Philadelphia when things are more open and safe.”

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Anya McDermott, MD

“The pandemic has exacerbated existing and well-known disparities in healthcare. How we transform the system to address and begin to correct these inequities will define this generation of healthcare providers. We cannot forget how COVID-19 has impacted the most vulnerable.

No matter how careful I am, it is exhausting and terrifying to think I am somehow spreading COVID-19. I am looking forward to shedding this new anxiety (instead of viral shedding) and hugging my parents!”

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Alyssa Lombardi, MD, PhD

“Something that has really stuck with me is seeing patients by themselves, since the hospital limits visitors. It has really made me recognize how important it is for patients to have a loved one with them, not only to give them support but also to advocate for them. I think (hope) the pandemic has made me become a better advocate for my patients.

Post-pandemic, I’m really looking forward to hugging my grandparents.”

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Michael Kosofsky, MD

“As isolating as this pandemic has been in the hospital, what has stuck out to me the most is how understanding, supportive, and appreciative both patients and their families have been throughout these difficult times. It’s clear that we are all in this together and we will get through this pandemic together.

Looking forward to some live music!!”

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Lydia Koroshetz, MD

“I’m amazed by the self-sacrifice and resilience demonstrated by front line workers, but I feel equally inspired by the stories of fear, exhaustion, and grief that remind us that we’re only human. Promoting wellness in healthcare workers is more important than ever.

I’m looking forward to a kinder America and a stronger public health infrastructure. And patients’ family and friends being able to visit their loved ones in the hospital again.”

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Jason Gonzalez, MD

“This is a tough situation, things are obviously stressful for everyone in and out of the hospital, but there are some people in the ED that just roll with the punches and make things look easy. Those are the people I look up to and try to emulate.

Honestly just looking forward to being able to see my family again, being able to properly celebrate my med school graduation with them!”

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Matthew Berger, MD

“I would say the thing that had stuck with me the most is giving patients advice and instructions about COVID that I also have to follow myself. Gives me extra empathy with them.

The thing I'm most looking forward to post pandemic is being able to go out to eat with friends again.”

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Greg Zandrow, MD

“As an ER physician, you train to be able to provide care to people at the worst, most desperate times of their lives. The COVID pandemic has shown us how deeply committed we are to that notion, coming to work day after day as the contagion steals our patient’s last breaths.

I like to travel, I’m looking forward to safely getting back on planes.”

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Katelyn Peloza, MD

“I learned how to have patience and hope during daily uncertainty as a brand new doctor in the middle of a pandemic.

I’m excited to see smiles when a patient or colleague cracks a joke, and for them to see me smiling back.”

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Eric Curran, MD

“So many times I’ve said, 'You’re in the hospital now, you’re going to be okay.' Sometimes that turned out to be a lie. I think about these lies often. But what would I want to hear from the doctor if it were my breaths fogging the oxygen mask?

I’m looking forward to sitting on a barstool with a cheeseburger and a cold beer alongside friends. In the ER, you see how terribly short and unexpected life can become. I hope we come out of this with a deeper appreciation for life and each other - including the simpler moments like a barside meal.”

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