Anesthesiology Critical Care Fellows Fill Unexpected Roles
June 9, 2020 | 3 min. to read
When Ashley Budd, MD, an Anesthesiology Critical Care Medicine fellow, first heard of a novel coronavirus emerging in China, she worried about how it would affect people worldwide — “but not how it would affect our lives in medicine.”
Before COVID-19, the four Anesthesiology Critical Care Medicine fellows at Northwestern Memorial Hospital — Dr. Budd, Jennifer Denk, MD, Kara Joseph, MD, and Joseph Sun, MD — cared for patients in specialty ICUs and provided airway management services throughout the hospital.
As the pandemic spread, their roles shifted to meet new needs.
In early February, Dr. Budd was participating in meetings with Critical Care Medicine leaders to design special intubation protocols in expectation that patients with the as-yet-unnamed disease would arrive at Northwestern Medicine.
By early March, the fellows became part of the core team, which also includes attending physicians, that performs those intubations on patients with COVID-19 at NMH.
“All of them came out of rotations to serve on the front lines, and have gone above and beyond in their dedication, working very long hours without complaint,” says Michael L. Ault, MD, chief of Critical Care in the Department of Anesthesiology. “We’re extremely grateful for their contribution to our ability to meet the demands of the pandemic and to our Patients First mission.”
While their work in ICUS has always been on multidisciplinary teams, COVID-19 required an even more collaborative approach, Dr. Joseph says. “With COVID-19, our roles extended beyond the ICU to regular meetings with hospitalists and medical colleagues on other floors to talk about patients’ status and think about how to reduce the risks of intubation,” she says. “It’s been a really big collaborative approach.”
The fellows say the stress has been eased by the support of their department, the Critical Care faculty, attending physicians, other fellows and residents who have reached out to offer help and check in on their well-being. “The biggest thing I’ve appreciated over the past couple of months is how important a good team is,” Dr. Denk says, “and surrounding yourself with people who you enjoy and trust.”
With their fellowships ending in June, the four physicians enter the next phase of their careers. Dr. Denk, Dr. Joseph and Dr. Sun will move on to other institutions. Dr. Budd will join the faculty of Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, and provide ICU and operating room care at NMH.
They all will take with them the enduring lesson of the value of collaboration, in medicine and beyond.
“This disease has been a reminder of how fragile we all can be,” Dr. Sun says. “But I also think it shows when people come together for a common cause, a lot of good can happen as well.” Heroes for Better is a campaign to honor our workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic. We are seeking stories, photos or art that show teamwork, impactful interactions and inspiring moments. Some of your stories may be shared on NM Interactive, nm.org and/or NM social media channels. Submit your story by emailing email@example.com