Smita Carroll is a third year OB/GYN resident at the University of Massachusetts. She is well-known on the Labor & Delivery floor for her bright affect and love & appreciation of her staff and colleagues, but has over her three years of training so far established herself as a strong voice in the realm of advocacy and reproductive rights. She speaks passionately about what family means to her and about the ways in which the Pandemic has impacted the families she cares for. She reflects deeper on what it means to have a voice and to not have that voice drowned out in the noise of the COVID19 Pandemic.
Dr. Carroll chose to go into medicine because of her personal connection to the healthcare system (her mom is a physician) but also because her brother is autistic and epileptic, the latter being her biggest inspiration.
“Once I got into medical school, I really discovered myself and what my passions were, and I realized that the central point of my passion was reproductive care, reproductive health care, caring for women…as I’ve developed my interests in residency, it’s definitely become more centered around advocacy and promoting and protecting reproductive rights.”
Labor and delivery nurses and providers truly became an essential support person for their laboring women (even moreso than they already were pre-Pandemic), as the institution kept to a one-visitor policy.
“The COVID Pandemic has brought a lot of challenges to medicine in total, but there are challenges unique to labor and delivery…Labor and delivery are a sacred moment in a woman’s life and it’s one of those moments…that a person delivering remembers exactly who was with them in such a sensitive and special moment in their life. And so I think one of the hardest parts is our policy (which I think is very appropriate for very important reasons)…but having to tell our patients that they can only have one visitor has changed their experience and the way they perceive what would be a very sacred moment for them.”
-ESSENTIAL VERSUS NON-ESSENTIAL-
“In light of the COVID pandemic…one of the biggest challenges is acknowledging the idea within gynecology of what is an essential surgery versus a non-essential or non-urgent surgery…what kinds of things can be delayed when it’s more safe to do them…I’m very proud to work at UMass where abortion care is considered essential, so we’ve been able to continue providing essential services to our patients.”
“Access to abortion care varies depending on where you are in the country…The deliberation of whether abortion care is essential has been somewhat variable, at least in the initial part of COVID, ACOG’s recommendation…stated that abortion is an essential service, and that abortion care needs to be continued…But in the way that abortion care is variable depending on where you are in the country…it’s (abortion care) definitely been exacerbated by COVID.”
“I’m a very staunch supporter in advocacy and reproductive rights. That’s been a huge part of my identity as a resident and how I envision my future as a physician. I’m very passionate about family planning and providing reproductive choice…a lot of my work in residency has been centered around improving access in Massachusetts.”
Dr. Carroll, a very vocal voice in the advocacy and reproductive rights community, reflects on how COVID19 has evolved the discussions around what should be advocated for during this time of need.
“The discussions that we’re having are definitely more nuanced… what we’re focused on in medicine, in general, regardless of discipline is how to provide the best care for patients in the COVID pandemic. That applies to every field…including OB/GYN. So our priorities right now is how to provide optimal care to our patients in the Pandemic. When it comes to advocacy, our priorities are not quite the same as they were pre-Pandemic. I think our priorities are now to just maintain access (to reproductive healthcare) in the COVID pandemic.”
“I think advocacy remains important and it’s important for all of us to find our voice, as physicians. There was a lot of emphasis on “oh, you are that person who advocates” or “you’re the advocacy expert” but I really think that advocacy is fundamentally something that applies to all of us and it’s inherent part of our job. We are physicians and it’s our job to advocate for our patients, so whether that’s in the exam room or outside the exam room, I think it’s something that greatly enhances all of our practices, so I think that when there’s something you find that you’re passionate about, you should go for it…”
“I am really, really close to my family…My brother is autistic. We’ve always been an extremely close-knit family for that reason. Also, my parents immigrating to this country definitely kept us very connected to our Indian culture…Even in college, medical school and residency prior to the COVID pandemic, I would go home fairly often to see them in New York, and I think that’s a huge centering point for my family to have everyone together…It was an adjustment point for my husband too, because I would see my family so often just because that was so center to growing up…And then COVID hit…It’s been really hard, especially for my brother…it’s been emotionally challenging for him, because he doesn’t fully comprehend what’s going on with the Pandemic but also he doesn’t understand why he’s not seeing me or my husband…he doesn’t understand why we’re not all together…those are parts of his normalcy.”
“Knowing that my home…NYC, has been so affected by COVID…there’s a lot of guilt and a lot of worry…and it’s hard being so far away from my family during a Pandemic like this.”
-HER WORK FAMILY-
“Everything has changed so much in terms of how we connect with our loved ones, with everything being virtual. Being able to lean into those connections, whether it be family or friends…our co-residents and residency group has kept each other strong. The group of 21 of us…knowing that everyone is going through exactly what you’re going through…that solidarity between the residents has definitely kept me going.”
Smita Carroll, MD
OB/GYN Resident PGY-3
University of Massachusetts