Ob/Gyn Dispatches During COVID-19: Anna Burgansky, MD

March 27, 2020

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 Anna Burgansky, MD, Chief of the Division of General Obstetrics and Gynecology at NYP/Lawrence Hospital.

On May 2, 1986 my father took me out of school, packed my bag, and quietly put me on the train from Kiev to St. Petersburg. Three days later, as the news about Chernobyl disasters became public in Soviet Union, schools closed, children were evacuated, and no seats remained on any train, plane, or bus leaving town. My father, a civil ship designer at the time, volunteered to be deployed to “the zone” and was decontaminating thousands of cars departing from Chernobyl. When I asked him why he did it, his answer was simple: “These cars were driving to Kiev. I had to do it for my family.”

My dad is now 82 and until recently worked full time as a fire safety director at Chelsea Hotel. This changed on the day I had to cancel all my elective surgical cases at the hospital. My part of that brief phone conversation was simple. “Today I’m the one in ‘the zone,’ and you are the one who needs to be safe and stay home.” To my complete shock and surprise, he agreed to retire!

Bob Marley said “You never know how strong you are, until being strong is your only choice.” Our lives today are filled with anxiety, uncertainty, and fear. But they are also filled with amazing stories of hope, strength, and endurance. 

I’m inspired by my patients, who offer gratitude and support in return for my vulnerability and honesty. We cry together when we plan their birth experience alone, without their partner. I’m inspired by my physician colleagues, who remain compassionate and brave despite fears of their own mortality, who smile and remain positive despite surrounding anxiety and stress, who volunteer to work extra shifts despite their personal needs and obligations. I’m inspired by our nurses, who become surrogate family members for our patients, and are not afraid to be in a room with an isolation sign on the door.

Being strong is our only choice.

Anna Burgansky, MD