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#YearofCOVID: Residents' Perspectives

Residents Reflect on Starting Their Careers in Historic Pandemic Year

In July 2020, the Cedars-Sinai Newsroom checked in with new residents as they were entering their careers in medicine to a world of unknowns in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Now, eight months later, first-year resident Maurice Turner, MD, said that while the pandemic has been overwhelming at times, it has given him experiences managing difficult clinical situations that he might not have encountered otherwise.

"I have tried to make a positive impact, even if it's small, in each of my patients' lives," Turner said.

As both trainees and doctors, residents stand at a crossroads in medicine–a place where creating professional connections with colleagues is critical. They'll have to lean on those connections throughout the rest of their careers.

"Many of our residents were recruited to come here from out of town, and when they got here, they did not have the experience that our residents have historically had, because they weren't able to socialize," said Mark Noah, MD, associate dean for medical education and director of residency training. "They have missed out on exploring and experiencing Los Angeles."

While the Cedars-Sinai residency program hosted virtual social and work events, "the ability to make connections within their programs became limited," Noah said.

In a heartfelt video, Claire Enriquez, MD, a second-year resident, said that the pandemic has been full of challenges, from physical ones like working long hours, to emotional ones like watching families cope with loss from COVID-19.

"One of the hardest parts of this year is having to tell people's loved ones that either their loved one is not doing well or that they have passed away, and just hearing the heartbreak in their voices, when either they can't physically come into the hospital, or even when they come in and they're saying goodbye to someone that they love and care about through a glass door," Enriquez said. "It's really hard to have to watch that, and to know that it's not enough for those loved ones, to be able to say goodbye to them. It's one of the hardest things that I've had to see this year."

Through it all, Enriquez said she's hopeful that future patients will benefit from the knowledge and sense of perseverance she and her fellow residents have gained. To get through the long days, she's practicing self-care in the form of a new hobby–bike riding.

"Even if it's just for a little bit during the day, or a long, full-day bike ride, I find that just spending time outside really helps me disconnect from being in the hospital, gets me to get back in touch with nature and be able to focus on me just for a little bit," she said. "That way, I have the time and the patience to be able to give my 100% when I'm back in the hospital with people who really need us to take care of them."

For Noah, the COVID-19 vaccines bring a new sense of hope that these residents might soon be able to share a little less stress and a little more camaraderie.

"It will give an opportunity for people to again rediscover the joys of being in a training program, having a chance to meet with fellow trainees, being able to meet outside the program and actually experience this wonderful city of Los Angeles," Noah said.

Read more on the Cedars-Sinai Blog: Groundbreaking Women in Medicine at Cedars-Sinai