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Med ’Canes on the front lines

By UMAA

Med ’Canes on the front lines

By UMAA
University of Miami Miller School of Medicine alumni from across the country share their firsthand accounts of caring for COVID-19 patients.

Graham S. Ingalsbe, M.D. '13

Graham S. Ingalsbe, M.D. '13, is a board-certified emergency medicine physician at a busy medical center in Reno, Nevada. During this pandemic, he is treating critically ill patients who cannot breathe on their own with known and suspected coronavirus infection, as well as, patients requiring emergent care from non-Covid 19 issues. His words from the front line:

"To anyone not directly facing this battle head-on, we need you. Because by this point the virus is everywhere, so we are all on the front lines. I need myself and my team to stay healthy and protected to care for the sickest of patients, and in order to do that we need every single person to sacrifice by staying at home, practicing social isolation, and by protecting themselves they are protecting me and my team and my family."


John Rotruck, M.D. '96

Miller School of Medicine alumnus, Captain John R. Rotruck, M.D. '96, is the commanding officer of the U.S. Navy hospital ship USNS Mercy. The ship recently started providing care to patients in Los Angeles as part of their heroic COVID-19 relief effort.

Read more about Captain John Rotruck's story.


Kristy Whyte, M.D '15

Kristy S. Whyte, M.D. '15, is a board-certified emergency medicine physician at Emory Decatur and Emory Hillandale Hospitals and is working to keep patients and staff safe through the pandemic. "As an ER physician, we respond and stand tall in the face of disasters. My training at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, and my residency program at Emory University, have prepared me to competently and confidently care for the critically and acutely ill with compassion and cope with the magnitude of the situation. For those not on the front line, please continue to stay home and socially distance for the betterment of yourself, family and community. Continue to love and cherish your family and friends."


Adrian Burrowes, M.D. '00

Adrian Burrowes, M.D. '00, has a message for his patients who generously donated N-95 and homemade masks, including homemade University of Miami masks with sleeves for HEPA filters. "In the face of a worldwide pandemic and a national health care supply shortage, our patients stepped up and answered the call. I'm overwhelmed with gratitude by the selflessness of our patients. These acts of kindness unite us and make our country great."


Richard Coia, M.D. '10 

Richard Coia, M.D. '10, is a board-certified emergency medicine physician and associate medical director at Rochester Regional Health in Rochester, NY, and is evaluating and treating patients with known and suspected coronavirus infection. He is taking necessary precautions by using as much appropriate PPE as possible, watching what he touches, frequently washing his hands, not touching his face, and assuming everyone is infected. His words to the public: "Stay home! This is not a joke. It is not exaggerated. You can save lives by social distancing!"


Varshasb Broumand, M.D. '95

Varshi Broumand, M.D. '95, is the chief medical officer of Christus Santa Rosa Hospital Westover Hills in San Antonio, TX, and is working with his team to keep the community safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. He recently donated 350 face shields to their local hospital. "The University of Miami Miller School of Medicine has prepared me for all sorts of challenging situations as we dealt with many sick patients and had busy services when we were there in training. For those not on the front lines, if you have the means to donate supplies and equipment do so, and the best way to help is to practice social and physical distancing and frequent hand washing. The one word that comes to my mind with COVID-19 is HOPE."


Geeta Nayyar, M.D. '03

Geeta Nayyar, M.D. '03, urges the public to stay calm and informed through this #COVID19 health crisis. "We are grateful for our frontline health care workers and wish you and your loved-ones health and safety during these trying times." Read more in this Miami Herald article.


Vicky Egusquiza, M.D. ’87

Vicky Egusquiza, M.D. ’87, is a pediatrician at West Dade Pediatrics. Her training at University of Miami and Jackson Medical Hospital is helping her cope with the pandemic, which she says is reminiscent of her early training when physicians were first encountering the AIDS epidemic. "We treated the patients to the best of our abilities and did not question going into work every day. We realized this was part of what we signed up to do and we were honored to serve a population that was in need of our assistance. This epidemic is no different.” Dr. Egusquiza wants those who are not on the front lines to remember, “We are as human and thus as vulnerable as they are. We have families and fears too”


Sawlar Vu, M.D. ’15

Sawlar C. Vu, M.D. ’15, is a board-certified emergency medicine physician in Decatur, GA, who is on the front lines treating patients with suspected COVID-19. His training at Jackson Memorial Hospital and Grady Memorial Hospital has taught him to deal with crisis and develop coping mechanisms. “Sometimes coping means, ‘I’m going to process this later, but right now I need to keep moving," Dr. Vu shares. "I’ve been lucky that my co-residents and I have remained close and sharing our stories with each other is one way we help each other deal with the emotional toll." His words to the public: “Think about the people in your life that you love and who are higher risk: your parents, your baby nephew, your grade school teacher. If you are careless, you can create a chain of infection that can reach so many others. Also, tell your parents you love them!”


Matthew Ciminero, M.D. ’16

Matthew L. Ciminero, M.D. ’16, is an orthopedic surgery resident at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, NY. The orthopedic department is managing a COVID-19 unit on what was once a postpartum floor. He has gone from fixing broken bones and replacing arthritic joints, to running codes, calling families about the untimely deaths of their loved ones, and treating patients battling COVID-19. Dr. Ciminero said, “It is safe to say that the standard orthopedist does not routinely manage these issues; due to my medical school training, my team and I are effectively treating patients at the epicenter of this pandemic. Thank you, UM, for preparing me for this once-in-a-lifetime crisis.”


Aaron Mittel, M.D. ’12

Aaron Mittel, M.D. ’12, is a critical care anesthesiologist at Columbia University Medical Center in New York, NY, treating patients with COVID-19. While his primary role is clinical care, he has also been involved in the logistical side of the department’s response where he was instrumental in developing alternatives to “traditional” ventilation, including using one ventilator for multiple patients in an effort to save lives. While Dr. Mittel follows all safety protocols, he realizes having adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) is a luxury and reduces his PPE use to ensure that others have the supplies they need. He finds that maintaining a semblance of cognitive "safety" in the form of exercise helps him manage the crisis.

Dr. Mittel acknowledges the wide range of sacrifices and suffering experienced by those who are not on the front lines, but have lost loved ones, or their income, or who battle a sense of disconnection during the pandemic. While health care workers deserve to be in the spotlight, he said, “Moving forward, I hope we can direct our attention to those who are battling this pandemic in other ways. I hope that society does not forget the personal and economic sacrifices we've all made to help save lives.”


Jeffrey Livingston, M.D. ’93

Jeffrey Livingston, M.D. ’93, is an otolaryngology specialist in Vero Beach, FL. He tackles emergent and urgent ear, nose, and throat issues every day of the week, from head and neck cancer to acute infections, and also consults at the Cleveland Clinic Indian River Hospital. “I am honored to provide subspecialty services to my patients in a time when access to necessary care is restricted or unavailable for many,” said Dr. Livingston. His medical team is keeping staff and patients safe through the pandemic with a range of protocols including pre-screening patients and wearing full protective gear during urgent nasal procedures.

Dr. Livingston commented on his training, “The breadth of experiences I had during my 11 years at the University of Miami School of Medicine and residencies at Jackson Memorial Hospital have provided a solid foundation for anything and everything I might face on a daily basis.” His message to those of us not on the front lines, “Be patient and try to do your part to social distance, while carrying on with all the best parts of your everyday life. This will eventually pass.”