Dr. Allison David, M.B.A ’20, an OB/GYN at North Shore University Hospital in Long Island, has wanted to be a doctor since the age of five. Now a practicing physician and a Safety Officer for the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, she supervises OB/GYN residents as well.
While the coronavirus has given much cause for worry, it is of special concern to those working in the medical field. “I have my family’s health and my own health to worry about, but it’s my job to take care of my patients and my residents,” David said. “I’m constantly reminding myself, it’s not about me.”
Many of the residents David supervises are just out of medical school and practicing for the first time in a hospital setting. “I tell my residents to access their own courage. It’s there, underneath the fear,” she said. “We may not always love every aspect of what we do, but deep down we know we have a calling. We are being put to the test of the Hippocratic Oath.”
Throughout the spring, when hospitals in New York were under siege from the spreading coronavirus, David and her team were called into service to care for their patients, both infected and uninfected. “It was very frightening. All over the city there were fears about the availability of protective personal equipment and beds. And we had no idea when it would end,” she recalled. “However, Northwell [her hospital’s health system] did a great job of communicating to the team and giving support to their staff.”
While on daily rounds during that time, David saw a postpartum patient who tested positive for the virus. While offering the woman reassurance and support, David recalled, “She thanked me. She told me I was the only person who stopped to really talk to her. To me it felt natural to support her in this way. Being mindful of my patients’ needs is my primary concern.”
Now that the virus is under better control, David and her team are back to a semblance of normalcy, delivering babies and reassuring anxious parents who sometimes worry that they or their newborn will acquire the virus during their hospital stay. While the hospital’s many safety measures make that unlikely, David takes nothing for granted. “The virus is still out there—unknown and lurking,” she said.
One lesson the crisis has taught her: her effectiveness sometimes hinges on knowing her limits. “I’ve learned to trust my gut, to remember that I’m not superhuman,” she said. “Sometimes I need to take a break, without feeling guilty. I have to forgive myself for being exhausted.”
Encounters with patients like the postpartum mother with COVID-19 make it all worthwhile for David. “My patients motivate me,” she said. “They open up and share their lives with me. They show amazing stamina and courage. Delivering babies is a big honor, and I feel it should be treated as such.”
David’s career goal is to one day become a hospital CFO or COO. “Medical school doesn’t teach the financial side of running a hospital, so I chose Mercy College for my MBA degree,” she said. “The program really opened my eyes to the combined benefits of having both a medical and a business background. The empathy I’ve developed in my work is vitally important as a physician, but it’s also essential to the running of a hospital.”
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