Ob/Gyn Dispatches During COVID-19: Maternal-Fetal Medicine Fellows

April 24, 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 our eight Maternal-Fetal Medicine fellows, Jessica Spiegelman, MD; Maria Andrikopoulou, MD; Aleha Aziz, MD; Caitlin Baptiste, MD; Noelle Breslin, MD; Ukachi Emeruwa, MD; Samsiya Ona, MD; Desmond Sutton, MD.


Maternal-Fetal Medicine fellows. Top row: Ukachi Emeruwa, MD; Maria Andrikopoulou, MD; Caitlin Baptiste, MD; Noelle Breslin, MD. Bottom row: Desmond Sutton, MD; Aleha Aziz, MD; Jessica Spiegelman, MD; Samsiya Ona, MD.
Maternal-Fetal Medicine fellows. Top row: Ukachi Emeruwa, MD; Maria Andrikopoulou, MD; Caitlin Baptiste, MD; Noelle Breslin, MD. Bottom row: Desmond Sutton, MD; Aleha Aziz, MD; Jessica Spiegelman, MD; Samsiya Ona, MD.

It’s the first Monday of the month, and we’re having our regularly scheduled monthly fellows’ meeting with our program directors. Except it isn’t the first Monday, it’s the second, and actually it’s Wednesday, and now we have these meetings three times a week, via Zoom. That’s life in New York City in the thick of the fight against the coronavirus—the days blur together and we lean on our little fellowship family more than we ever have.

Just six weeks ago, we were living our normal lives. Spring was coming and we were looking forward to the future. Our third years were counting down to graduation and the next chapter of their careers. Our second years were ramping up their research. Our first years, the backbone of our clinical services, were preparing to pass the torch to the incoming class. We had travel plans, weekend plans, life plans. Some of us were planning weddings. Graduation dinners, brunches, karaoke night, and Cronut day—all beloved traditions of the end of the academic year—were around the corner.

Those plans are on hold as we settle into our trenches here on the front lines. Gone is the delineation between first, second, and third years, between research and clinical time. We are one blended program, all of us staffing the labor floor, ultrasound, clinic, and our newly formed OBICU, and all of us working tirelessly to contribute to the research efforts that are vital to disseminating what we have learned. Socially distanced from our loved ones, we rely on each other for support. A fellow text thread, usually full of esoteric medical questions and funny stories, is now a lifeline. We are lucky. Unlike so many who are isolated at home with little human contact, we go to work and connect with people we love. It will be nice to see their faces again, when the masks can come off.

Though our lives have been turned upside down, our department inspires us. Our attendings and residents risk their own safety to care for patients. Changes in call schedules and clinical roles are taken in stride. Doing a C-section with an oncology or REI fellow – an absurd prospect two months ago – is now a near-daily occurrence. Mass creativity emerges as we figure out, together, how to keep our clinical services running. Our department, like so many others, has experienced loss, yet we carry on. Selflessness is pervasive as we try to protect each other from exposure.

A welcome realization during this unwelcome pandemic is that we have chosen the right career. Helping women to bring life safely into this topsy-turvy world has never been more rewarding. Taking care of our critically ill patients, holding their hands as we turn up their oxygen, reassuring their scared families over phone and video, are the best contributions we can make. We feel so privileged to stand with our colleagues as we, the New York tough, remind ourselves of what day it is, put our heads down and our masks up, and get to work.

Jessica Spiegelman, MD; Maria Andrikopoulou, MD; Aleha Aziz, MD; Caitlin Baptiste, MD; Noelle Breslin, MD; Ukachi Emeruwa, MD; Samsiya Ona, MD; Desmond Sutton, MD