Updated: May 31, 2020
David Liu, MD is a 3rd year Internal Medicine resident at the University of Massachusetts. He will be staying on as Chief Resident next year. He plans to apply to Renal fellowship afterward.
“At the beginning of the Pandemic, I was in the Emergency Department doing medicine admissions…at first there were cases we were seeing that we weren’t sure was COVID…Later I worked in the ICU managing COVID patients when things were pretty intense.”
David, like many of his co-residents in Internal Medicine, found themselves on the frontline of the COVID pandemic. Admitting, diagnosing and caring for the sickest of the sick. At the beginning of the Pandemic, everyone’s understanding of COVID19 and the marks that it leaves on those who acquire it (so-called “signs” and “symptoms” of disease) were still uncertain. We were all learning together – to diagnose, to manage and to be afraid.
“I think when I first started hearing about these cases I was alarmed but felt that we are very healthy, young people. It probably won’t affect us much. But one day when I was working in the ED…I saw a young guy who was very sick…from then on I decided that we would have to be strict about making changes in the house to keep us both safe. We made a whole protocol of how to get into the house safely. In the garage we had a clean station. Everything I brought back from work I kept in a box.”
“My bigger worry is my parents…we chat with them frequently…I just worry about keeping them safe.”
Thanh Thu Ngo, MD is a 3rd year Family Medicine resident at UMass Memorial, with her primary care clinic at Family Health Center of Worcester. She will be continuing at the Family Health Center of Worcester as an HIV Fellow next year.
“It’s kind of hard to see the future.”
“I got pulled out from patient care pretty early. My experience has been more of social isolation / quarantining situation. I am still seeing patients on telehealth but I’m not seeing patients when they’re really sick in the hospital, and sometimes it makes me feel like I’m not very useful, but I’m also very grateful that I get the chance to be safe at home and protect the baby.”
Dr. Ngo responded to the call of duty by diligently working on projects focusing on workflow of the health center, in the midst of the massive restructuring of her own primary care clinic (Family Health Center of Worcester) during the COVID pandemic. Through the phone, she continued to take care of patients using Telehealth. Behind a computer screen, she helped to care for her co-residents and her clinic by taking part administratively in the command center.
“Initially, I was doing some work with the Incident Command Center at Family Health Center…they have been doing a lot of behind the scenes reorganizing the clinic to make it a safe place for everyone. Now, I have been doing more patient care…telehealth has gotten busier. I get really unique stories from patients through telehealth and when I take call (for the health center). For the most part, patients really understand why it’s important to stay home and not come into the office. The patient phone calls that I get when I’m on call is kind of a glimpse of what’s going on in the hospital like the ED and inpatient floors…because there are patients that I have sent to the testing tent who are then sent to the hospital, and if they get admitted, I do follow them…and there’s a good handful of them who are not doing well. It really does make me worried sometimes that there are patients who seem to be doing everything right, like staying home and only leaving the house for essential things, but they’re still getting sick.”
Dr. Liu and Dr. Ngo got married on September 27, 2019 during both of their third year of residency. Shortly afterward, Dr. Ngo found out that she was pregnant. During her second trimester, the COVID pandemic unfolded. “We had a second wedding in China that we had bought the plane tickets for and ordered the dress and everything, but then COVID19 hit in China so we had to cancel it. It was going to be a big celebration with his (Dr. Liu’s) family.”
Dr. Ngo recalls “Not much time has passed, but I feel like a lot has happened since we got married. It’s weird that David is still working…scary sometimes. Mostly I’m scared for him and my parents…they’re older. Worried about David’s parents.”
Dr. Ngo is the eldest of three children. She recalls that the emotional distance between her and her parents in actuality became much shorter, despite the physical distance that the Pandemic wedged between them. “I feel like I’ve gotten closer to my parents since the Pandemic. I talk to them sometimes multiple times a day…It was my mom who was very worried about me living at home with David when he was still seeing sick COVID patients. We decided it would be safest for me to go live somewhere else.” “I see how much of a toll it takes on people who are seeing patients…it’s just really hard to deal with that all day and come home to an empty house.”
Dr. Liu recalled that “We had been living together, but to keep her safe, we decided that Thu would move out to my parents’ house. The first week was okay. By the second week, it was much harder.”
Dr. Ngo reflects, “I do worry that if I get it (COVID), how it will affect her (her baby)…will she be okay if she comes early. But I try not to let that take over and I distract myself with other things…like planning.”
Now, Dr. Liu and Dr. Ngo are awaiting the birth of their first child. They are looking to the future.
“I would love to visit his (Dr. Liu’s) grandparents soon to show them the baby.”