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On the COVID-19 Front Lines

From the very beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, board certified doctors have been working on the front lines. They have developed new ways to keep health care workers safe, opened temporary hospitals, and held patients’ hands. Some of them have even been COVID-19 patients themselves.

Below are just a few of their stories.

Keeping the American Dream Alive During COVID-19

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Heval Kelli, MD
American Board of Internal Medicine
Specialty: Internal Medicine

The American Dream is as unique as each American who dares to dream. For Heval Kelli, MD, a Kurdish refugee from Syria, his dream is to be able to give back to the country that welcomed and supported his family so generously nearly 20 years ago.

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Staying Connected to Help the Nation’s COVID-19 Response

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Kathleen G. Beavis, MD
American Board of Pathology
Specialty: Clinical Pathology

On December 25, 2019, Kathleen G. Beavis, MD of the University of Chicago contacted former colleagues in Wuhan, China to learn about the mysterious respiratory illness they were reportedly facing.

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Keeping Humanity, Community, and Family in Focus During COVID-19

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Michelle Au, MD, MPH
American Board of Anesthesiology
Specialty: Anesthesiology

One of the biggest challenges anesthesiologist Michelle Au, MD, MPH faces on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic is continuing to offer personal, warm care to her patients.

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A Medical Physicist Describes Changes He Saw During COVID-19 Pandemic

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Robert A. Pooley, PhD
American Board of Radiology
Specialty: Diagnostic Medical Physics
Specialty: Nuclear Medical Physics

“The primary effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on my everyday work has been related to the implementation of masking and distancing safety precautions and a shift to remote interaction with staff and trainees. Almost instantaneously, all face-to-face meetings at my institution and off-site were rescheduled as virtual meetings or canceled. To reduce the number of employees on campus, the declaration that ‘all work that can be done at home must be done at home’ had immediate impact.”

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Physician Helps Reach Out to Latinx Community During Pandemic

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Andrew B. Reisman, MD
American Board of Family Medicine
Specialty: Family Medicine

An incidental meeting at a conference in early 2020 helped forge a coalition and brought critical COVID-19 education and services to Latinx citizens in Gainesville, Georgia.

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Physicist Describes Institution’s Changes During the COVID-19 Response

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Matthew B. Podgorsak, PhD
American Board of Radiology
Specialty: Therapeutic Medical Physics

“Early in the pandemic, we instituted best practices recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to keep our patients and staff safe. This included patient and staff screening (family members were not permitted in our clinic areas), universal mask-wearing, enhanced cleaning of immobilization devices and all surfaces that touch a patient and limiting the number of staff within enclosed spaces.”

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Physicians Turn to Telemedicine to Treat Patients During COVID-19

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Rebecca H. Reddy, MD
American Board of Pediatrics, Specialty: Pediatrics
Nancy M. McGreal, MD
• American Board of Internal Medicine, Subspecialty: Gastroenterology
• American Board of Pediatrics, Subspecialty: Pediatric Gastroenterology
David J. Mann, MD
American Board of Dermatology, Specialty: Dermatology

As stay-at-home orders were issued to slow the spread of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) in states across the country this past spring, board certified physicians turned to telemedicine to continue providing medical care for their patients.

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Called Up and Deployed to Help His Hometown

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Scott J. Farber, MD, LCDR, USNR, MC
American Board of Plastic Surgery
Specialty: Plastic Surgery

As a Lieutenant Commander in the United States Navy Reserve, plastic surgeon Scott Farber, MD was one of 120 physicians called up and deployed to New York City in March to help its overwhelmed health care system battle COVID-19. As part of a 12-surgeon team, Dr. Farber was sent to NYC Health + Hospitals/Woodhull, a health care system located in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn.

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Physician Talks About Support Systems, the Future, and Helping Families Make Tough Decisions

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Zoeb Bootwala, MD
American Board of Internal Medicine
Specialty: Internal Medicine

“COVID-19 is an incredibly cruel disease—not only does it devastate the body, but its highly contagious nature keeps families from being at their loved ones’ sides in those final hours,” said Zoeb Bootwala, MD, a hospitalist from Georgia. “This social and physical distance has made it even more difficult for families to confidently make timely and compassionate end-of-life decisions for their loved ones.”

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Hospital Administrator Keeping Clinicians Safe, Helping Patients Connect Virtually

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Despina Dalton, MD, MBA, CPE, RPh, CNS, FAAP, FACHE
American Board of Pediatrics
Specialty: Pediatrics
Subspecialty: Pediatric Emergency Medicine

Sometimes fighting the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) is not about providing direct patient care, but about caring for the clinicians who are.

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Laboratory Medicine Takes Its Seat at the Table During the Pandemic

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Gary W. Procop, MD, MS
American Board of Pathology
Specialty: Anatomic Pathology & Clinical Pathology
Subspecialty: Medical Microbiology

“When there is a crisis, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, you have to be 100 percent on top of your game—there’s no time to try to play catch-up,” said Gary W. Procop, MD, MS. “My continuing board certification helped me stay up-to-date and prepared me to get through the early days of the pandemic, when we were urgently working to bring up, create, validate, and operationalize accurate and timely COVID-19 testing.”

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Physician Uses Data to Help the Nation’s COVID-19 Response

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Adi V. Gundlapalli, MD, PhD, MS
American Board of Internal Medicine
Specialty: Internal Medicine
Subspecialty: Infectious Disease
American Board of Preventive Medicine
Subspecialty: Clinical Informatics

When Adi V. Gundlapalli, MD, PhD, MS moved from Utah to Atlanta for a position with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), he imagined he and his family would spend his off-hours exploring their new city. But all that changed when the COVID-19 pandemic swept through the United States.

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ABEM President Battles COVID-19 at Work and at Home

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Jill M. Baren, MD, MS, MBA, FACEP, FAAP
American Board of Emergency Medicine
Specialty: Emergency Medicine
Subspecialty: Pediatric Emergency Medicine

Jill Baren, MD, did everything right. She gowned, gloved, and masked when seeing patients. She changed out of her scrubs, laundered them immediately, and used the wash station in the mudroom off the garage before entering her house. She wore a mask to go grocery shopping. Still, on March 18, Dr. Baren, President of the American Board of Emergency Medicine, was diagnosed with Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).

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An Otolaryngologist Joins a “Trach Team” that Establishes COVID-19 Protocols and Procedures

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Milan Amin, MD
American Board of OtolaryngologyHead and Neck Surgery
Specialty: OtolaryngologyHead and Neck Surgery

When the COVID-19 surge hit his hospital, Milan Amin, MD and his otolaryngology colleagues assumed they would be deployed to monitor the day-to-day care of patients in the intensive care unit. It turned out that their unique expertise in managing airways and tracheostomies was needed more by their hospital colleagues. …

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An Emergency Physician Shares Heartbreak and Joy from His Experience on the COVID-19 Front Lines

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Wallace A. Carter, MD
American Board of Emergency Medicine
Specialty: Emergency Medicine

“I will never forget the devastated look on that man’s face as he watched the love of his life get wheeled down the hall,” said Dr. Carter. “Even as I assured him that we would take the very best care of her, I knew there was very little we could do to save her life at that advanced stage of COVID-19 …”

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A Plastic Surgeon Gets the Chance to Help Fellow New Yorkers During the COVID-19 Pandemic

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Peter J. Taub, MD, MS, FACS, FAAP
American Board of Surgery
Specialty: Surgery
American Board of Plastic Surgery
Specialty: Plastic Surgery

On September 11, 2001, Peter Taub, MD was in Los Angeles, completing his last year of medical training. Born and raised in New York City, he felt out of place as he watched his beloved city suffer in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks that happened 2,700 miles away. When the global COVID-19 pandemic hit New York City in 2020, Dr. Taub was grateful to be present and eager to help his city however he could.

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A Physician Reflects on Building a Local Response to a Global Pandemic

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Jeffrey L. Levin, MD, MSPH, DrPH, FACOEM, FACP
American Board of Internal Medicine
Specialty: Internal Medicine
American Board of Preventive Medicine
Specialty: Occupational Medicine

While winding down a lifelong academic career in medicine, Jeffrey Levin, MD, expected to feel a peaceful sense of pride and accomplishment. After all, he helped train the next generation of physicians to provide expert and compassionate care for patients for decades to come. What he didn’t expect was to be serving on a team that would plan the local response to a deadly, global pandemic.

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Caring for Non-COVID Patients During the Pandemic and Health Care Workforce Safety

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Rebecca M. Minter, MD, FACS
American Board of Surgery
Specialty: Surgery

During a global pandemic such as COVID-19 it is tempting to imagine that all health care professionals drop what they are doing and begin to work on that pandemic. Fortunately for their colleagues and patients, they do not.

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Re-engineering and Transforming Care on the COVID-19 Front Lines

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Amy J. Goldberg, MD, FACS
American Board of Surgery
Specialty: Surgery
Subspecialty: Surgical Critical Care

As the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) virus began to overwhelm hospitals in Seattle and New York, the team at the Temple University Health System (TUHS) started planning for the surge that was surely heading to Philadelphia.

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Temporarily Sidelined by the Coronavirus, an Emergency Physician Provides a Different Type of Care on the COVID-19 Front Lines

Ramon Johnson MD
Ramon W. Johnson, MD, FACEP, FAAP
American Board of Emergency Medicine
Specialty: Emergency Medicine
American Board of Pediatrics
Specialty: Pediatrics

“The two weeks I spent in self-quarantine were almost unbearable,” said Ramon W. Johnson, MD, an emergency medicine physician from Mission Viejo, California. “I felt like I was letting my colleagues and patients down by not being there to help.”

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A Surgeon Reflects on Communication, Education, and Family on the COVID-19 Front Lines

Gary Korus MD
Gary B. Korus, MD, FACS
American Board of Surgery
Specialty: Surgery

“Inspirational” and “desperate” are two words Gary B. Korus, MD, uses to describe his time on the front lines of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic as a surgeon at Penn Medicine in Philadelphia.

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A Physician Shares His Experience as a Patient on the COVID-19 Front Lines

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Robert K. Cleary, MD, FACS, FASCRS
American Board of Colon and Rectal Surgery
Specialty: Colon and Rectal Surgery
American Board of Surgery
Specialty: Surgery

Robert K. Cleary, MD, knew that a global pandemic was coming. He just never imagined he would be one of its victims. Instead of helping patients on the front lines, he found himself in a bed in his own hospital, fighting for his life.

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An Emergency Physician Reflects on Gratitude, Strength, and Education on the COVID-19 Front Lines

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Erin Brennan, MD, MPH
American Board of Emergency Medicine
Specialty: Emergency Medicine
Subspecialty: Emergency Medical Services

When asked to describe the three weeks she spent during the COVID-19 surge in her busy Detroit hospital’s emergency department, Erin Brennan, MD, MPH, is at a momentary loss for adequate words.

While she would like to accurately describe the horror and seemingly impossible odds she and her team faced, she feels strongly about acknowledging the inspiring strength and generosity she witnessed.

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A Military Veteran Shares His Experience on the COVID-19 Front Lines

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James R. Ficke, MD
American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery
Specialty: Orthopaedic Surgery

It took just a few minutes for James Ficke, MD to agree to become the director for the Baltimore Convention Center Field Hospital for COVID-19 patients.

“It may be a cliché, but I believe that health care professionals are called to serve the greater good,” said Dr. Ficke. “With my patients’ elective orthopaedic surgeries on hold during the pandemic, I was available and eager to serve on the frontlines to fight COVID-19.”

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