Ob/Gyn Dispatches During COVID-19: Russ Miller, 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 Russell Miller, MD, Director of the Center for Prenatal Pediatrics and an Associate Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at NYP/CUIMC.


The view from Dr. Russ Miller's sunroom, where he has been in quarantine for the past 18 days.
The view from Dr. Russ Miller's sunroom, where he has been in quarantine for the past 18 days.

Deep down, I always suspected I would go down first in a viral pandemic. I was washing my hands until they hurt, social distancing before anybody had even heard of it, and using Purell each time someone so much as mentioned the word COVID, like it was some sort of college drinking game. Louis Pasteur famously wrote, “Fortune favors the prepared mind,” and so maybe this is the exception that proves the rule.

Fun fact: For a while before this pandemic began, I had been wondering what to get my wife for our upcoming 15-year anniversary. As it turns out, my gift to celebrate the occasion was a deadly virus. We laughed about that the other night, and it was nice to smile again.

Like all of you, sickness has been my world over recent weeks, although for my family it’s been from a different perspective. But this reflection isn’t meant to dwell on sickness. The goal here is to celebrate healers and healing.

They say that there’s no treatment for COVID, but I disagree. While it’s true that there is no proven medicine or vaccine, I can report with first-hand knowledge that love and support are enormously helpful when dealing with this virus. From the bottom of my heart, I thank each one of you who reached out over recent days and weeks — it meant the world to me, just as I’m sure that your time and dedication mean the world to the patients that you treat. Your words and attention can truly heal. Themes of this pandemic seem to include physical isolation and loneliness, but at the same time this experience might also allow us to reaffirm the great importance of colleagues, family, and friends.

It’s simply incredible what you’ve all been doing for our patients over these recent weeks. Perhaps it takes the worst of times to fully recognize the best of people, and you all to me are the very best of people. Our governor is right: You are heroes.

Isolated in a sunroom that was never meant to be a bedroom for the last 18 days, I’m looking outside a large glass door as I write this. I have discovered during this time in isolation that I enjoy watching the trees, the grass, and the occasional squirrel run by. But today, I’m focused on something else. My younger daughter is alone on the other side of the window, playing on a Pogo stick. I haven’t hugged her or her sister in over two weeks. She sees me through the window, and she smiles and waves. Knowing that she has my full and undivided attention, she tries to do the Macarena while bouncing on her Pogo stick. She almost pulls it off, but stumbles a bit before quickly getting back up, right back on her feet, and we both start laughing from opposite sides of the glass. And in that moment, I believe that everything is going to be okay.

Russell Miller, MD