Pandemic Allows Diplomates and Residents to Flex their Skill Sets

May 21, 2020

When ABFAS announced in its newsletter last year that multiple changes would be coming in 2020 and over the next few years, we had no idea how many changes would truly be thrust upon us—and on you. This past year since lockdown began has tested our residents, candidates, and Diplomates in more ways than any of us could ever plan. But as we have grown to expect from foot and ankle surgeons, so many of you have stepped forward to meet the need.

During the pandemic, especially in the early days, when conflicting information and the constant influx of patients caused a shortage in both staff and PPE in many hospitals around the nation, many of our surgeons volunteered to fill the gap—surgeons such as the fifteen residents including Sahar Zaidi, DPM, PGY-2 of Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, a hotspot of COVID-19 cases, who answered the call for volunteers on the COVID floors, working on Code teams, night shifts, and makeshift ICUs despite a lack of proper PPE and resources. Many team members even used makeshift gowns and ski goggles to protect themselves.

Unexpected Roles for Foot and Ankle Surgeons

Though valued and necessary, the experiences of Dr. Zaidi and his colleagues are not unique. Garret Melick and Joslin Seidel, podiatric surgery residents at Massachusetts’ Cambridge Health Alliance, volunteered and joined the first wave of hospitalist teams deployed to assist on the front lines of care. While their three-year program involves rotations in internal medicine, infectious disease, emergency medicine, radiology, anesthesiology, pathology, endocrinology, general surgery, and psychiatry, nothing could have prepared them for the reality of patient care during a pandemic.

As part of the internal medicine team, Drs. Melick and Seidel primarily managed COVID-positive patients—noting that some days were scary, unfamiliar, and frustrating—but found that being able to help patients heal and recover was not only a spectacular feeling but also a good reminder of why they chose to join the medical field.

Cambridge Health Alliance Podiatric Medicine and Surgery Program Director Harry Schneider, DPM, said of Melick’s and Seidel’s skilled and compassionate care, “And give credit to our exceptional residents; they have risen to the challenge. In these unprecedented times, they have been able to showcase the full range of their clinical skills and training.”

Schneider isn’t the only one to recognize the dividends that the broad medical training experience all ABFAS residents and Diplomates undergo has been able to offer hospitals and medical centers during the pandemic.

Kelly Lucas, DPM, whose ortho team at NYU Winthrop had been repurposed into a proning team, flipping intubated patients in order to increase oxygen intake, shared the following insights: “Very quickly my residents have learned how to hook up EKGs, manage A lines, central lines, foleys, chest tubes, etc. during these sometimes very complicated flips. I am so proud of them representing our profession on the front lines of our hospital. They are not only helping the patients who have fallen ill to this disease but have helped take this very physical stress off of our nursing staff.”

When hospitals in New York City were overwhelmed by not only the sheer number of cases and lack of supplies but also COVID-related deaths, ABFAS Diplomates and residents were once again called upon for their skills. At the Brooklyn Hospital Center, Dr. Joshua Rosenberg, a critical care doctor and chair of the hospital’s infection control committee, quickly welcomed ABFAS Diplomate Ovidio Falcone, DPM and resident Dr. Camille Kim, along with another of Falcone’s residents as reinforcements because of their skills “with knives and big needles,” along with a neurosurgery physical assistant, surgery residents, two cardiac catherization lab nurses, and a nurse anesthetist.

Together, this team with disparate backgrounds worked to deliver top-notch care and expand ICU capacity, succeeding in helping more patients than the ICU had ever handled before. 

Breaking Barriers, Removing Labels

As Dr. Joslin Seidel so aptly stated, “It is truly amazing to see everyone coming together to fight this virus. Barriers have been broken, labels have been removed, and our community is working together for the greater good! At the end of the day, we’re in this together and we all have a part to play.”

As our nation and world continue grappling with the ongoing grip of the novel coronavirus, we will continue to support and shine a light on the members of the ABFAS community who are courageously putting themselves on the front lines and working with other medical professionals to make a difference. If you have stories to share, particularly of those foot and ankle surgeons, residents, and podiatry students stepping up in hospitals and ICUs across the country, we want to hear about them!

Email us your stories so that we can spotlight moments of positivity during the pandemic. We hope these “silver linings” will inspire us all to move through this uncertain time quickly.