You Wei Lin, MD, anesthesiologist, was slated to join the Department of Anesthesia, Critical Care and Pain Medicine team at Massachusetts General Hospital in April 2020. However, just a month prior to his start date, Dr. Lin, also a Navy Medical Corps officer, was deployed to support the Department of Defense and FEMA’s COVID-19 pandemic relief efforts for two months aboard the USNS Mercy in Los Angeles. Following his deployment, Dr. Lin began his role as an attending anesthesiologist at the Mass General/North Shore Center for Outpatient Care—and brought with him a wealth of experience that has served him well in his day-to-day care of patients.

“In all aspects of medicine, we are prepared at all times to face whatever challenges come along,” he says. “The ability to be flexible, adapt to any situation and be a team player has helped me find success in my work at Mass General.”

In this spotlight, Dr. Lin shares more about his approach to patient care at Mass General, his experience being deployed during COVID-19 and why the willingness to accept challenges at every stage of life is so valuable for a career in medicine.

Q. What brought you to Mass General?

Before joining the anesthesia team at Mass General, I had long admired the history of this prestigious institution, especially the pioneering innovations by the department. Since joining Mass General/North Shore Center for Outpatient Care, I have been most impressed with the thoughtful organization and the efficiency of patient care which allows a high volume and wide variety of surgical cases that can be done on an outpatient basis.

I also really appreciate the knowledgeable, skilled CRNA team. Everyone puts forth great effort to help each other in setting up rooms, support patients before their surgeries and move cases forward. There is a great sense of purpose and pride in being part of a team that takes the best care of its patients as well as each other. Everyone has been most welcoming and helpful, and I am very happy and proud to be a part of the Mass General family. We have so many talented residents, fellows and health care professionals at Mass General.

Q. What would you want a prospective patient to know about your approach to care?

Clear communication is very important. I hope to help my patients feel comfortable in speaking with me about any concerns they may have regarding their anesthesia care.

Q. You were aboard the USNS Mercy in Los Angeles in March 2020 to help with COVID-19 relief effort. What was that experience like for you?

You Wei Lin, MD
You Wei Lin, MD, anesthesiologist at Mass General/North Shore Center for Outpatient Care and Navy Medical Corps officer

As a Navy Medical Corps officer, we are told to have our sea bags packed and ready to go at any time. I was rapidly mobilized and aboard the USNS Mercy hospital ship in San Diego within 72 hours’ notice. The Mercy had been slated for major renovation in drydock so all of the equipment, including anesthesia machines and monitors, had been disassembled and packed away for long term storage throughout the ship. The first task for the team was to find all these items and clean and set up the facility essentially from scratch. The newly assembled team of doctors, nurses and technicians dealt with this unusual circumstance with impressive speed and precision.

The Mercy served as a referral hospital for Los Angeles county for almost two months and I was part of the anesthesia team that provided care for a variety of surgical cases, not only in the operating room but also in the interventional radiology suite and intensive care unit.

The most important thing I learned during this time is to always be prepared and be ready for anything—prepare for the unknown and prepare to be flexible. All of this has helped me find success in my work, particularly at Mass General.

Q. What unique challenges did you face and how did you manage them?

The most uniquely challenging aspects of this mission were the uncertainty and the fluidity of the situation. The Mercy was set up for humanitarian and combat medicine, but not meant to deal with an airborne pathogen. I was the surgical department’s representative for the Mercy’s Infection Control Committee, and I was involved in the formulation and execution of plans and procedures to prevent the community spread of COVID-19 on board. Due to the hard work of the committee and the cooperation of the entire staff, we were able to maintain a COVID-free environment throughout the entire operation with very limited testing ability onboard.

Q. What has helped you find success in your career?

I think a willingness to accept new challenges and continuing to seek out opportunities to practice medicine in a variety of settings has been important part of keeping me focused in my work. Serving in the military had been a longtime interest of mine. I was particularly interested in combat casualty care because civilian medicine has been greatly advanced by procedures that were first developed to treat the wounds inflicted during combat.

In 2014, while my daughter was exploring colleges, she met a decorated veteran of the Navy Nurse Corps who became a friend and mentor extraordinaire for both me and my daughter. I entered Navy Medicine at the age of 52, following my daughter’s footsteps, and it has been a most fulfilling adventure. Serving my country while broadening my professional experience has been deeply meaningful to me.