By Dr. Andrew Becker
I come from a family of physicians that is on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic. My father, Dr. Steven Becker, is a longtime primary care physician whose practice on Cleveland Drive has remained open these last two weeks; still paying his nursing staff even as they have canceled all in-person appointments.
My identical twin brother, Dr. Alex Becker, is a graduate of the University at Buffalo Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences and current resident physician in neurosurgery. He recently remarked about feeling a sense of purpose he gained from being a truly “essential employee,” as he walked the short distance from his Allentown apartment into Buffalo General Medical Center before dawn.
I am a graduate of Williamsville North High School and now resident physician in anesthesiology at the University of Pennsylvania who is caring for these patients in the ICU every day. We are all doing our part in this pandemic from different positions on the front line.
It's not just my family, of course. Physicians across our health care system, both locally and nationally, are stepping up in ways that make me proud to be a physician. They are stepping up in ways that define the kind of neighborly sense of duty we have all grown to love about Buffalo. From my view, physicians and hospital staff are fulfilling the challenging obligations their profession demands.
A few days ago, I called home for some perspective after my first week of caring for Covid-19 patients. My dad answered the phone and I told him about my view of the front lines. I had a patient in the emergency department who became acutely short of breath, requiring the familiar call over the loudspeakers that brought a team of critical care and anesthesia professionals quickly to the bedside. Because the patient was Covid-19 positive, every member of the rapid response team was forced to don the protective gear that keeps our health care providers safe.
I told my dad how the moments it took to put on our protective equipment gave us just a few seconds to reflect on how different our lives had become.
Just days prior we were physicians working in separate fields, some of us in settings completely outside the purview of the emergency room. Yet, this pandemic had forced us to step into roles necessarily foreign – it had forced us to step up to our obligations as physicians.
My dad had his own story of the day. In his case, his office had received a phone call from a patient in distress. The patient was short of breath and had multiple underlying conditions that made it challenging for him to leave his house, let alone get to the hospital. He asked that my dad call an ambulance for him, since the patient was afraid he was too tired to get the words out himself.
We are fighting this pandemic as a family affair. We’re on different fronts of the battle, but we’re all involved in the war.
The response of our health care providers and physicians to this pandemic will likely become a defining part of many a career. I am proud to say my family, my community and my profession is rising to the occasion.
Andrew Becker, M.D., is a resident physician at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and associate fellow at the Leonard Davis Institute of Healthcare Economics.