Sophie Shay, MD
Assistant Professor, Pediatric Otolaryngology Clerkship Director
Lauren North, MD
Medical School: Medical College of Wisconsin
Anna Berezovsky, MD
Medical School: University of Michigan
We began 2020 bright-eyed and eager, with resolutions to achieve and goals to accomplish in the new year and the new decade. Although by January 2020, we were hearing rumblings of a strange virus taking hold in Wuhan, China, the threat this posed to our everyday existence seemed distant. Most of us can reflect back on a time in March 2020 when we nonchalantly ate dinner inside a restaurant, without knowing that it would be last time for months we would do so! The scope of how this would impact our lives and continue to change our daily habits was unfathomable in those early months.
In reflecting upon how the world was turned upside down, we would be remiss to not remember those who lost their lives to this pandemic. While the threat was difficult to grasp in those early stages, it is very evident now how many of us have been heavily impacted by COVID-19. For many, life will never be the same. Families who have lost loved ones are left scarred in the wake of the pandemic. Livelihoods were at the very least put on pause if not entirely evaporated.
For others, life required significant adjustment. Zoom entered our lives. Telemedicine rose to the occasion. Travel plans cancelled. Weddings postponed. Holidays downsized. Toilet paper became a commodity. Grocery shopping became an anxiety provoking venture rather than a mundane errand. Watching fictional television characters go out into the world without a mask requires a double-take. Our social circles shrank to a critical handful of people. Leaving home now requires making sure we’ve grabbed a mask, in addition to keys, phone, wallet and other essentials.
The support for healthcare workers in our society has been endearing and humbling. Communities coming together to donate personal protective equipment, make hand-sewn masks, and celebrate the healthcare workers on the frontlines. Being an otolaryngologist meant being on the front-line in a way that had not been anticipated. Everything could potentially be an aerosol-generating procedure. In the weeks before having implemented standard procedures, work was anxiety provoking. However, at every level of healthcare, bravery and commitment to patient care resonated louder than any fear could.
Dr. Berezovsky recalls that in the last few months of medical school, while nurses were pulled to COVID-19 testing sites, she and other students were brought on to help with patient follow-up phone calls. It was all hands-on deck, and everyone pitching in where and when they could.
Moving forward, we do not know what the rest of 2021 will have in store for us. If 2020 has taught us anything, it is to be able to endure the unknown. At some point in 2020, hearing that there were 15 COVID-19 positive patients was scary, then 100 cases in the state seemed terrifying. Despite it all, some good things have been learned along the way. Hobbies that we discovered in 2020 will continue to be welcome distractions in 2021.
For many of us, 2020 served as a pause button in an otherwise hectic, technology-driven life to refocus on the most important things in our lives. Reading a good book or working on a 1000-piece puzzle will likely continue to remain favorite pastimes. For now, vaccinations bring a glimmer of hope for a safer future and we continue to be grateful for our loved ones, whom we hold onto closely.
Comments from Anna Berezovsky, MD and Lauren North, MD
Dr. Berezovsky, PGY1:
"Starting residency was one of the things I looked forward to most during the depths of the pandemic and helped keep my spirits up…. [though COVID-19] I think there has been a smooth transition to new restrictions but also makes it difficult not really knowing what things in residency were like before the pandemic.”
Dr. North, PGY4:
"Days pass. One dawn turns into the next. Aside from co-workers, the only humans I see are my husband and my neighbors through our shared fence. I celebrated my 31st birthday with friends and family via Zoom. The days turn to weeks and months. Sometimes I forget what normal is.”