Ob/Gyn Dispatches During COVID-19: Ashanda Saint Jean, MD

April 22, 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 Ashanda Saint Jean, MD, Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at NYP/CUIMC and Director of Ob/Gyn of the Ambulatory Care Network for NYP/CUIMC.

Ashanda Saint Jean, MD
Ashanda Saint Jean, MD

In order to arrange my thoughts regarding this COVID-19 pandemic, I must start from the beginning and how destiny placed me at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center. I am a descendant of the beautiful island of the Dominican Republic, thus working in Washington Heights and Inwood serving the Dominican community is home to me. My grandfather arrived in the United States via passage through Ellis Island from Sanchez, Dominican Republic and settled in Harlem during the prime of the Harlem Renaissance. He later married my grandmother and settled in a brownstone on East 127th Street. During their last pregnancy, my grandmother insisted on taking the public bus uptown, to “The Medical Center,” as Columbia Presbyterian Hospital was affectionately known, to receive her prenatal care. She was always so impressed that they were able to diagnose her twin gestation at five months, way before ultrasonography was a staple in obstetrics. My mother and uncle were born vaginally at the Sloane Lying-In Hospital at over 7 lbs each, and throughout my whole life, I was told of the greatness of Columbia Presbyterian Hospital.

Fast forward over 70 years later. I have been able not only to witness this greatness but be a part of it. During the unfolding of the COVID-19 pandemic, our department has strategized and carefully planned how best to serve our Washington Heights/Inwood Dominican community, which lies in the epicenter within the epicenter. We have mobilized our outpatient care operations, consolidated our Ob/Gyn outpatient practice to provide improved healthcare access, and further developed a telemedicine structure to conduct both virtual and telephone visits. With the prevalence of healthcare disparities and social determinants of health that impact our community, one of underrepresented minorities, we have strived to protect our patients' pregnancy journey.

The fears that I have witnessed from my expectant patients have been profound. The reluctance to attend both clinic visits or acute care at the hospital due to COVID-19 is a recurring theme amongst our patients. Telemedicine has allowed us to reach our patients and calm some of their fears. We are able to address their concerns via a new communication platform that has provided some solace and peace amid this crisis. During a telemedicine visit last week, a patient repeatedly thanked me for connecting with her. She didn’t know doctors called patients or cared so much.

In service to our patients, we must redesign the delivery of healthcare and tailor it to our patients' needs and the challenges of the present time. It is a time of uncertainty, but what is certain is our commitment to our patients and the community we serve. I am so proud to serve our patients and understand the significance of my place here. As we embark on this new day together, I have no doubt NYP/CUIMC will once again lead the way to developing best practices for women during their pregnancy journey.

“Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.” -Harriet Tubman

Ashanda Saint Jean, MD