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A Medical School Graduate Goes Straight To The Front Lines


As the coronavirus pandemic has unfolded, we have grown accustomed to hearing about shortages, particularly in hospitals - shortages of ventilators, shortages of personal protective equipment, shortages of nurses, respiratory therapists and, of course, doctors. Several medical schools across the country are trying to address that shortage by allowing students to graduate ahead of schedule, so they can get to work early. One such school is New York University's Grossman School of Medicine. And one of those early graduating students is Gabrielle Mayer. Once she's licensed, she'll be caring for patients at Bellevue Hospital in New York. She joins us now.

Hey there.

GABRIELLE MAYER: Hi. How are you doing?

KELLY: Hi. I'm well. Thank you. I want to start by asking, what informed your decision to graduate early, volunteer to work early?

MAYER: I think a couple of things. First and foremost, I thought I had a skill set that would be useful in the hospital. I was essentially on extended vacation from the time that I had been given information of where I was going to residency up until my start date in July. And so with no more clinical education left before I graduated, I thought that I might be able to help. But I think the other big part of it was knowing that my community was in need and that the health care workers that I'd soon to be joining were strained already. And that was a big motivation to go into the hospital.

KELLY: Do you know what you'll be doing once you start caring for patients?

MAYER: I know - I start on Monday. I know next week is going to be no direct patient care as we finish up orientation and onboarding. There will be a little bit of work calling patients to deliver test results or to communicate with families. And then after that, I know that we'll be working in our role as interns in some capacity. I have heard that we'll be on less medically acute or complex floors than the interns who have already been on the wards for 10 months.

KELLY: Right. You know, we've been obviously interviewing a lot of doctors, a lot of deeply experienced health care professionals who are feeling overwhelmed and stressed by the scale of this. Do you feel ready? Do you feel equipped?

MAYER: I do. I do. I think, in a time of crisis or pandemic, things are going to be hectic and stressful. But I do think that I have the most training I could to go into this and help, given my role. But I go in understanding also that it's not going to be the usual transition into my new role as a new doctor. It'll be a little bit more busy in some ways. And it's just something I have to know in terms of expectations going in.

KELLY: Yeah. Are you worried about getting sick?

MAYER: I think I would be remiss to say I'm not somewhat concerned, of course. I know that - I've been involved in some PPE organization efforts throughout the city. And I know that the number of masks and gowns going to hospital has increased dramatically. And I know that the state continues to make a commitment to work on getting more protective equipment, which gives me a deep level of comfort. And I know that the school and the hospitals I'll be working with have promised to protect us, ensuring that we don't go into rooms if unnecessary, you know, where there are infected patients. And so I trust the measures that are being taken by the larger institutions to keep us protected. But, of course, it's still a possibility to get infected.

KELLY: Yeah. You must have talked this through with your family. What do they think of your decision?

MAYER: You know, my mom is my mom. And she, of course, is concerned, as any mother would be.

KELLY: Oh, yeah.

MAYER: But I think they understand that, you know, this is part of what brought me into health care, the desire to be of use, to help a community in need, especially the community that I grew up in as a native New Yorker. And so I think they saw my decision as something that was really consistent with what drove me into this career in the first place. And ultimately, they're very supportive.

KELLY: That is, as of tomorrow, when she graduates, Dr. Gabrielle Mayer. Next week, as you heard, on Monday, she begins her residency almost three months early at Bellevue Hospital to help with the treatment of coronavirus patients. I want to just say best of luck. We'll be rooting for you. And thanks so much for talking to us.

MAYER: Thanks. Take care. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.