Mary Beth Gadarowski ’15 is part of a generation of new doctors who are closing their medical educations and starting their medical careers in circumstances unlike anything in living memory. COVID-19 made sure of that.
Gadarowski, who recently graduated from SUNY Upstate Medical University, is now a resident physician at San Antonio Military Medical Center. She is pursuing a career in dermatology.
Below, she shares what it’s been like for her during the coronavirus pandemic.
How has this pandemic changed your medical education this year?
In many ways.
- As a graduation requirement for our fourth year curriculum, we were enrolled in an elective titled “March into Residency.” The course reviews urgent and emergent patient care, along with financial literacy, and advice on how to manage the rigors of residency training. Halfway through, the course was abruptly halted. It was a shame, not only for the learning aspect, but also for the social opportunity to reconnect as a class one last time.
- I had arranged a global health elective in Kenya during the entire month of April. It was canceled because of the circumstances and uncertainty surrounding the pandemic. This was a big disappointment, but I am grateful to be continuing the work remotely. Hopefully one day I will make it over there as planned.
- The most surreal change was the cancelation of graduation. Walking across the stage, receiving my medical degree diploma and cheering on my peers is a ceremony I’ve been looking forward to for years. While it felt anticlimactic to celebrate our hard work and dedication remotely, SUNY Upstate hosted a virtual graduation ceremony and that meant friends and family from afar could participate!
You recently wrote a piece about COVID-19 and the Hippocratic Oath for Kevinmd.com. How much more important or powerful does this covenant seem in the face of so much need, uncertainty and change?
The significance of these words (as ancient as they may be) is profoundly relevant. In times of uncertainty, I truly believe that our relationship with medicine – and caring for the sick and those in need – highlights the role of a physician as a healer. In the current state where friends and families are precluded from visiting their loved ones, and where final words and condolences are expressed remotely, the words of the Hippocratic Oath provide us with solace and comfort during such instability.
How are you and your peers handling this experience? Are you afraid? Galvanized? Tired? Proud?
Many of us are doing our best to stay as informed as possible, to be aware of the current clinical trials and studies underway. Our role is to support and encourage recommendations that are solely evidence based. Many of us are fearful with respect to the misinformation that has spread. We are saddened by the reality that disadvantaged and minority communities have been afflicted the most. In light of the uncertainty and fear, many of us are extremely cognizant of the personal, physical and economic stresses associated with the pandemic. Organizations such as the American Medical Association are a key resource for those in graduate medical education programs across the country. These entities have been invaluable in generating updates on COVID-19 management, preparing physicians and advocating on behalf of our safety and protection.
What have you learned from the epidemic that you might never have learned without it?
This has been a meaningful time of introspection on both personal struggles and triumphs, along with recognizing the strengths and challenges to health care access and delivery in the United States. It is truly our due diligence to practice preventive measures to ensure the health and welfare of our society as a whole, by means of protecting others and ourselves