Five uOttawa resident physicians share how they have adapted to the new COVID-19 reality

Posted on Friday, May 1, 2020

Three physicians from The Ottawa Hospital conducting a medical procedure

Residency is a crucial time during every physician’s education. While completing medical school, they choose a specialty, in which they spend several years learning the ropes of working in a clinical setting before they can obtain an independent practice certificate.

While residency is a shared experience for all medical practitioners, what makes the current cohort of residents unique is having to complete their training during a pandemic.

As we celebrate all doctors on National Physicians Day, including our many uOttawa Faculty members, we asked some of our current uOttawa residents based at The Ottawa Hospital to share what is helping them cope as they navigate their way through the COVID-19 crisis.

Portrait of Dr. Roupen Odabashian

Dr. Roupen Odabashian, PGY-1 Internal Medicine

I came to this country with hopes and dreams to be where I am today. This country has never let me down. It gave me extended family, friends, new life, career and a safe place to stay. I have wanted to “pay back” and “pay forward” the many blessings that people and this country have bestowed upon me. Now is the time where I can help. The idea that I owe the people and the land the blessings that I have now as a doctor helps me get through the pandemic. Every day, when I get up and go to work, I feel blessed and lucky to be part of the amazing team at The Ottawa Hospital, and this motivates me and gives me the positive attitude that is needed to work through the pandemic.

Portrait of Dr. Alexandra Bunting

Dr. Alexandra Bunting, PGY-4 Orthopaedic Surgery (Chief Resident)

My Orthopaedic family is the most supportive, fun and self-proclaimed coolest group of residents, staff and admin. We help each other through the pandemic with virtual hangouts and a group chat to stay connected, de-stress and share jokes to ensure we are all smiling. We have regular discussions about the pandemic and things we want to change in order to improve the care and safety of our patients and ourselves. I also work with my program director, Dr. Lalonde, to provide weekly updates to all ortho staff and residents; and I send out a weekly workout challenge to all staff and residents. We have fun working together, whether in the clinic or the OR, pandemic or not, because we care about each other.

Support during the pandemic is always (virtually) nearby through my family, fiancé and friends who regularly check in on me and send me encouraging messages.

Portrait of Dr. Andre Martel

Dr. André Martel, PGY-3 General Surgery MSc Candidate, Clinician Investigator Program (Centre for Innovative Cancer Therapy)

As a general surgery resident, I’m fortunate to be part of a close-knit division of residents and staff. Surgical emergencies such as appendicitis, gallbladder problems and obstructions have not slowed down, and we still provide quality care for these high-acuity patients. Additionally, as a MSc candidate in cancer immunology, I’ve taken this time to collaborate with other immunology researchers studying NK cell activity in COVID-19.

Portrait of Dr. Zeba Siddiqui

Dr. Zeba Siddiqui, PGY-1 Internal Medicine

From not being able to provide a comforting touch to a sick patient, to not being able to connect with them from behind a mask, the pandemic has challenged our human nature. What has helped me work through it is seeing people, the healthcare family and the community at large come together in support of each other. Seeing my colleagues step up for each other, seeing my seniors have our backs and seeing the community cheer us on has been a source of great strength. Using social media to remain connected with friends, family and colleagues has really helped. I have maxed out my data this month with all my video chatting. We are distancing more, but also connecting more.

Portrait of Dr. Harrison Carmichael

Dr. Harrison Carmichael, PGY-5 Emergency Medicine (EMS and Disaster Medicine Fellow)

COVID-19 has helped make me proud of what I do. Emergency Medicine is a commonly underrecognized specialty and I feel as though the pandemic has allowed many to gain an appreciation for what we do, while allowing us to display our areas of expertise.

The support from our department, residency program, hospital, government and community has made coming to work every day much easier. I am happy to come to work on every shift with the opportunity to care for a community that is sacrificing so much in their daily lives for each other. Seeing the community adapt their lives to help gives us the sense that we’re all in this together.

Also, the free meals people are offering the ED is a major boost to morale for us all!

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