The Paul S. Russell, MD Museum of Medical History and Innovation recently hosted a virtual event called "Resident Writing in the Time of COVID-19." Here are some reflections from the front lines.

“The rhetoric is that we are heroes...But while some of my peers are itching for their moment on the frontlines, I do not feel like a hero at all.”
Pooja Yerramilli, MD, Medicine/Global Health (March 26)

“Federal officials have been begging the public to donate blood. They should know that gay men like me are ready to roll up our sleeves and help.”
Jack Turban, MD, Psychiatry
(Vox, April 15)

“We’re accustomed to people thinking psychiatrists aren’t real doctors. We’re usually OK with the jokes, but not now. During the pandemic, they are creating unnecessary fear.”
Jack Turban, MD, and Chase T.M. Anderson, MD, Psychiatry
STAT (May 13)

“The virus has changed how we think, feel and interact....With everyone wearing masks, it’s become more difficult to pick up on emotions and moods. As compensation, I’ve registered, for the first time, the eye colors of people with whom I’ve worked for years.”
Clayton Dalton, MD, Emergency Medicine
The New Yorker (April 2)

“Every day, I check his chart and wonder whether we are doing the right thing. At times, it feels like we’ve found the only logical response to this problem; other times, it feels like stalling.”
Alessandra Colaianni, MD, Otolaryngology
The New Yorker (April 22)

During the June 24 event, five Mass General residents read from and discussed recent pieces they have published in national publications. Event co-host Suzanne Koven, MD, Mass General writer in residence, observed that each person had taken an entirely different angle on the central theme.  “What these physician-writers have been able to do under extreme time pressure, emotional pressure and physical exhaustion is awe-inspiring,” Koven said.

Screenshot of virtual program
A screenshot from the June 24 event.

“COVID-19 intersects with so many facets, not only of medicine, but also society,” said Jack Turban, MD, Department of Psychiatry resident, who wrote about being banned, as a gay man, from donating plasma for a potential COVID-19 treatment.

Event co-host Vinayak Venkataraman, MD, Department of Medicine/Pediatrics resident, noted the common theme that ran throughout every piece. “This virus has reminded us of the power of general medicine as it has been practiced for centuries; we just need compassion, humanity and common sense.”

Pooja Yerramilli, MD, Department Medicine/Global Health resident, told the virtual group that while she previously had published piecesincluding opinion and editorial piecesduring the pandemic, she turned to more reflective writing to process her emotions. Fellow presenter, Alessandra Colaianni, MD, Department of Otolaryngology resident, said she felt similarly. “I process ethical issues much better and more slowly by writing,” she said. And Chase Anderson, MD, Psychiatry resident, said he has also used writing to educate readers about his own experiences with bigotry in medicine, and in the wake of the death of George Floyd, to discuss race and diversity. 

A recording of the event is available for those who were unable to attend.