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

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.

The Department of Surgery at the Mount Sinai Health System arranged and deployed teams of surgeons, nurses, residents, and support associates to work in needed areas across the health system, from ICUs to ERs, to inpatient floors, to help COVID-19 patients.

“For six weeks during New York’s COVID-19 surge, I was assigned to different teams, with varied schedules, at three diverse hospitals,” said Dr. Taub. “There was a medical crisis and we simply went where we were needed most.”

The type of patient care Dr. Taub provided was different, as well. “In my specialty of plastic surgery, it is not often that we take primary care of the critically ill or experience the death of a patient. During the pandemic, we lost at least one patient to COVID-19 during each shift. It was heartbreaking.”

Despite the painful losses, Dr. Taub was grateful for the opportunity to help the majority of patients. “As difficult as it was being on the COVID-19 front line, this experience reaffirmed my desire for a career in health care.”

After each exhausting and emotional shift, Dr. Taub changed clothes, scrubbed up, and then went home to his New York apartment. In the shared public hallway, he disrobed, put on the towel his wife left for him, placed his clothes in a garbage bag, and headed right to the shower. “Even though my wife knew we were very careful and that we used personal protective equipment, she was nervous about infection. My children seemed to handle it well. To them, I was just their dad.”

While caring for COVID-19 patients, Dr. Taub took advantage of timely online information offered by the American College of Surgeons and the Society of Critical Care Medicine.  He re-learned ventilator management and its specific use in COVID-19 patients and brushed up on acid/base physiology and management.

To share his perspective on the unexpectedly critical role of plastic surgeons during the pandemic, Dr. Taub authored “Plastic Surgeons in the Time of a Pandemic—Thoughts from the Front Line”, a viewpoint article in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. In the article he notes that “plastic surgeons shouldn’t be sitting on the sidelines of this or future crises. We have too much to offer as physicians, surgeons, colleagues, and mentors.”

The Future
Despite epidemiologists predicting another pandemic surge in the fall, Dr. Taub says he is hopeful about the future. “In the past decade, the warning signs were there that a global pandemic of this scope was not only possible, but likely. Unfortunately, COVID-19 was not taken as seriously as it should have been not as early as it should have been. All of us, from government to health care professionals, learned a lot and we will be ready for the next time.”

Certified by the American Board of Surgery (ABS) and the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS), Dr. Taub serves as Professor of Surgery, Pediatrics, Dentistry, Neurosurgery, and Medical Education at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai as well as Attending Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeon at the Mount Sinai Medical Center and Elmhurst Hospital Center, all in New York, NY. He is a member of the Board of Directors for the ABPS.

(Published: June 24, 2020)

Read more stories from the COVID-19 front lines.

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