Ob/Gyn Dispatches During COVID-19: Aaron Praiss, MD and Sbaa Syeda, MD

Each day during the COVID-19 crisis, we'll share an update from a member of our team in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Columbia University Irving Medical Center. Today's note is from Aaron Praiss, MD, PGY-3 and Sbaa Syeda, MD. PGY-3, with contributions from other PGY-3 residents.

PGY-3 residents. From left: Aaron Praiss, MD; Emily Spurlin, MD; Sbaa Syeda, MD; Nigel Madden, MD; Tiffany Sia, MD; Conrad Stern-Ascher, MD
PGY-3 residents. From left: Aaron Praiss, MD; Emily Spurlin, MD; Sbaa Syeda, MD; Nigel Madden, MD; Tiffany Sia, MD; Conrad Stern-Ascher, MD

The typical life of an Ob/Gyn resident is hectic. The life of an Ob/Gyn resident during a global pandemic has taken an already hectic role, and turned it upside down. Reflecting on this time brings various emotions to the fore, ranging from unease about what the future may hold, to comfort in a stronger sense of community among us all. Like many others in this department, the unifying theme across these scattered emotions is one of shock.

The month of March was filled with monumental changes for the department that reverberated throughout our residency. The weight of the decisions to postpone gynecologic surgeries and the decision to merge labor and delivery units at the Allen Hospital and Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital were not lost on us. While concerns regarding the pandemic’s implications on our training can never be undermined, we quickly appreciated the calling to our obstetric patients who needed our undivided attention. This calling gave us a surge in purpose and made our desire to contribute to the workforce in a meaningful way even stronger. We watched in awe as many of our co-residents, senior trainees, and faculty requested to be redesignated to new departments and fulfill their purpose. In return, we, as residents, received a new version of reality - one filled with familiar faces in a new location - that has been a gift to us during this current crisis.

When we entered our residency training, we can assure you that none of us expected to do a cesarean section on labor and delivery with an oncologist. Sure, maybe a bleeding cesarean hysterectomy or even a scheduled placenta accreta case, but a prime breech with Dr. Jason Wright? Or watch a minimally invasive gynecologic surgery fellow ride the bed during a cord prolapse? The mere prospect of this possibilty made us all smile. We have found that our larger family, previously composed of General Ob/Gyn, Maternal-Fetal Medicine, MIGS, Gynecologic Oncology, Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility, and Family Planning, has blended into one. This family gives us hope, and their fresh perspectives and clear dedication to our patints have reinvigorated our work.

We are reminded of our commitment to our community every day at 7 p.m., when people in Washington Heights and all over New York City walk out to their fire escapes, lean out of their apartment windows, banging together pots and pans and clapping and cheering for frontline healthcare workers. Although these are some of the most difficult and exhausting times in our lives, there are also so many moments of gratitude and hope. Despite all that we have lost in the midst of this pandemic, we still feel lucky. Lucky to be a part of this amazing and inspring and forward-thinking department who continues to lead this country through the storm. Lucky to work with women who continue to amaze us with their strength and resilience. Lucky to bring life into the world and share in precious moments with our patients. Lucky to learn from the world’s leaders, who continue to make our education a priority. Lucky to have family amonst freinds who hold us up every single day. We look forward to the months and years ahead, and know we will emerge stronger than ever.

Aaron Praiss, MD, PGY-3, and Sbaa Syeda, MD, PGY-3