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

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,

This morning I extended my rounds to include several ICUs. This included the CTICU, packed full and gamely holding on as our only non-COVID+ unit. I visited one of the new “pop-up” units on a repurposed step-down floor. I finished in the ICU pods created from reconfigured operating rooms on the 4th floor. These pods extend ventilator capacity by using the OR anesthesia machines, and are where the split-ventilator trials are being conducted. From the sterile core (now a nursing station) I looked through a window into “my" room (OR 22), where I’ve done thousands of operations over the years. That was then, this is now. The new now, in “my" room, consists of several critically ill patients on ventilators. Their bedside intensive care was being provided by a redeployed cardiac anesthesiologist and a redeployed cardiac surgeon, both close colleagues of mine. The cardiac surgeon was the first of my subspecialty partners to be felled by COVID-19. He recovered well and returned to the front lines last week. Another of our partners is recovering, and will return next week.

The scene in OR 22 captures many achingly familiar and universal features of this pandemic—our comfortable pavement and reassuring routines ripped up overnight and replaced by precarious hand-to-hand combat with a virus, accompanied by vanishing productivity, extinction of familiar roles, personal and professional dislocation, illness, and loss of life. OR 22 also illustrates a counterweight to all that gloom. Adaptability, resolve, and self-sacrifice is how everyone is fighting back. Soon I hope to say it’s how we’ve turned the tide. Maybe next week?   I can’t wait to mothball that emoji.

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

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