Cedars-Sinai Blog

Healthcare Heroes: ICU Residents and Fellows

Residency and fellowships are an important part of a doctor's training and education. But how does the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic impact that training? We spoke with several Cedars-Sinai residents and fellows to find out what's changed in their work. 

The impact has been felt widely and will have long-lasting effects.

"These last two months—and I don't know how long this will last for—are going to be a defining experience in our training," says internal medicine resident Dr. Karen Tsung.

Dr. Alexander Kassar, chief fellow of pulmonary and critical care medicine, is finishing up his last year of training and he's not letting the current situation rattle him. 

"This is exactly what I was meant to do," he says. "The second you step foot in the hospital, a switch gets flipped on. You have one mission, one goal. And that is to take care of patients."

As updates about the disease and potential treatments come in on a daily basis, staff members are adapting to provide the best possible care.

"I've seen patients recover drastically," says Dr. Kassar. "From being on death's door to talking and saying hello and leaving the ICU (intensive care unit) 20 days later."

Dr. Angelena Lopez, chief fellow of pulmonary and critical care medicine, remembers a special moment with a patient she recently helped have a breathing tube removed. 

"A couple days later I was in his room and he said, 'I remember you,'" she recalls. "He expressed a lot of gratitude to the care team for taking care of him and being there to get him through this situation."

Internal medicine resident Dr. Jack Aguilar agrees that seeing patients recover is a perk of the job.

"It's so rewarding to be able to help people and know that we're actually getting them better and getting them home," he says.

For many employees going through this, the camaraderie and support among staff are crucial. 

"If we all work together and we all recognize the value and utility that each of us bring to the table, we're capable of so much," says Dr. Lopez.

Dr. Kassar thinks everyone is contributing in different ways, including community members. 

"I'm proud of everybody that was helping out," he says. "I'm proud of the person that stayed at home. I'm proud of the person that donated food. 

"I'm proud of the person that helped their neighbors. I think it really shows how much we really care about each other."