Ob/Gyn Dispatches During COVID-19: Cynthia Gyamfi-Bannerman, MD, MSc

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 Cynthia Gyamfi-Bannerman, MD, MSc, Vice Chair for Faculty Development and the Ellen Jacobson Levine and Eugene Jacobson Professor of Women's Health at CUIMC.

Cynthia Gyamfi-Bannerman, MD and her two children
Cynthia Gyamfi-Bannerman, MD and her two children

As I look upon our world, largely unrecognizable today, I can’t help but think about my children and how they may be coping. My eight-year old son and nine-year old daughter know that they have two doctor parents, but they likely don’t realize that their obstetrician mom and ER dad are on the front lines. We try to keep the mood light at home, and while we are healthy, we try to hug them as much as we can, knowing that at any moment, we may not be able to interact with them in the same way for a very long time. 

Sometimes they seem completely unfazed by the current events, but my daughter did ask me if we had a similar virus when I was growing up in an effort to gauge what is normal. My son, on the other hand, was always particularly interested in the coronavirus.  Since January he would ask about it almost on a daily basis. “Mommy, what is the coronavirus?” “Has the coronavirus come to New York?” “Do you have the coronavirus, mommy?” I used to confidently tell him that the coronavirus has not come to New York, nor do I have it, but that was over a month ago, which now seems like a lifetime away. If only our national leaders took the virus as seriously as he did back then. He doesn’t ask anymore. 

As an attending, I am on a team that includes other colleagues, including doctors, nurses, researchers, administrative staff, and trainees. All of these people, including my wonderful residents and fellows, have become my extended family. Similar to with my own kids, I try to keep the mood light while at work, since we all are acutely aware that we are on the front lines, but the feeling I had coming in to my first call after our first COVID patient was unsettling. How could I lighten the mood in that setting? Could I admit to my own apprehensions about this new and unfamiliar labor floor? 

The answer was clear as soon as I stepped foot on the 10th floor of the Children's Hospital of New York. I got a warm greeting by the PFA and triage nurse. When I walked into the board room, it was just like coming home. My fellow told me to get an N95 before seeing the sick patients. The charge nurse handed me a mask with a smile, and then we started to discuss dinner. 

It is sometimes the mundane parts of family life that, while underappreciated, are only possible with a strong sense of belonging that I sometimes take for granted working with such fantastic people. CHONY Labor and Delivery is my family. The Ob/Gyn department is my family. You are a safe place even in the most challenging of times. Together we will get through this. Together we will do our best by our patients. Together we will be stronger in the end.

Cynthia Gyamfi-Bannerman, MD, MSc