COVID-19 Update from Dr. Smith: 4/2/20

Each day during the COVID-19 crisis, Dr. Craig Smith, Chair of the Department of Surgery, sends an update to faculty and staff about pandemic response and priorities. Stay up to date with us.

Dear Colleagues,

In the midst of our viral catastrophe, it’s a delight to open with a welcome surprise. Today Steve Corwin announced that NYP is providing a $1250 bonus for everyone who has worked in or supported the COVID-19 front lines, for at least one week. This unprecedented generosity recognizes unprecedented efforts in response to the threat of this unprecedented pandemic. Some nonetheless grateful recipients may demur that they don’t do this for bonuses. True and admirable, but everyone in the world is looking for ways to show appreciation for what our people are doing; singing, bringing food, donating PPE. Witness the firemen, who sacrificed so many lives for us on 9/11, gathered in front of Lower Manhattan Hospital sounding their sirens and clapping for everyone inside. This generous gift is just another way to applaud.

I spent some time today on a conference call sharing insights learned from our COVID-19 experience with a mid-sized hospital in the midwest. They are behind us in their new-case curves, but it’s immediately evident that in this moment COVID-19 is the universal experience that binds together every part of health care. Setting aside differences in scale, we have exactly the same problems everyone else has, or will soon have. It’s equally obvious that there is no playbook and no secret sauce, in large part because so much of the response rests on human resources. There are no engineering tricks or IT sleights-of-hand for that. Wherever we are, we must give everyone enough PPE to feel safe at work, train them when they’re redeployed, feed them, rest them, help them protect their families...and lead them. Lead them past the shoals that break our keels.

As I walked out yesterday, to continue conference calls while sheltered at home, I couldn’t resist pausing to catch an iPhone photo of the flowering trees in front of the old Presbyterian chapel across Fort Washington Avenue. When I looked at it later, magnified by un-pinch, I noticed that my foreground captured another mask-wearing person, on the opposite sidewalk, doing exactly the same thing. It’s nice to have some things in bloom on a sunny spring day, here in the epicenter.

Craig R. Smith, MD
Chair, Department of Surgery
Surgeon-in-Chief, NYP/CUIMC

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