Called Up and Deployed to Help His Hometown
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.
“Our team, which was made up of many surgical specialties, was tasked with running our own 10-bed intensive care unit,” said Dr. Farber. “We were all out of our comfort zones, so we left behind any ‘silo mentality’ we ever knew and worked together like a well-oiled machine during 12-hour shifts, seven days a week for about six weeks.”
The hours were predictably long and the work intense, but for Dr. Farber, the emotional toll was high. “At the time, Woodhull was one of the hardest-hit hospitals in the country. Our patients had multiple comorbidities, including diabetes and high blood pressure, so the mortality rate in our ICU was 80–90 percent. The most difficult thing was seeing our patients dying without their families at their bedsides, due to potential infection transmission.” said Dr. Farber.
A New York City native, Dr. Farber left his practice in the steady hands of his two partners in San Antonio, Texas and went home to help for a total of eight weeks, six weeks of work and two weeks of quarantine. However, it hardly felt like the home he had known all his life. “The military housed us near Times Square, which was eerily quiet and subdued, thanks to the city’s stay-at-home orders. I was only able to see my local family members briefly, at a distance, in a city park—not the type of reunion any of us hoped to have.”
Just a few years out of his residency and newly board certified, Dr. Farber brought a few of his medical textbooks for reference with him and tapped critical care colleagues when he needed some advice. “While I was not providing the type of patient care I had been trained to do, this experience absolutely reaffirmed that medicine was the correct career choice for me. I am profoundly grateful the Navy gave me this opportunity to help Americans in need.”
(Published: August 6, 2020)
Read more stories from the COVID-19 front lines.