TAMPA, Fla. — “It really is pretty much the worst thing that’s happened from a health crisis in a century,” said Dr. Deborah DeWaay, Professor of Internal Medicine and Associate Dean for Undergraduate Medical Education and the University of South Florida.
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the lives of millions of people, including healthcare workers.
“We don’t go into this business because we think we’re not going to make a difference. So sometimes the suffering is overwhelming,” said DeWaay.
They’re fighting day in and day out to save lives as our hospitals are filled once again with COVID-19 patients. It’s pushing staff to their limits and students in the University of South Florida’s medical program have had a front seat to it all.
“It doesn’t make me any less desirous to get into the field and to get alongside them, work shoulder to shoulder with them but it honestly makes me worry we’re going to burn out some of these people who have been in there longer,” said USF’s second-year medical student, Zeegan George.
“I’m a big believer in the human spirit and this is really a case where there are these really wonderful human beings out there that are literally putting their lives on the line,” said DeWaay.
The students at the Morsani College of Medicine had to switch to online learning at the beginning of the pandemic for their safety but have now slowly moved back into hospital settings, watching medical workers risk their lives for the community.
“The very essence of medicine is to help others. Like that makes it all worth it even with the dangers of the pandemic,” said Ashley Mason, a second-year medical student at USF.
“I think on one hand we desperately need people and on the other hand I also very much believe this is one of the best jobs ever, even in the midst of the turmoil,” said DeWaay.
Everyone is rising to the occasion, pitching in to fight the virus, and USF’s medical students say this pandemic has only reaffirmed their desires to pursue a career in medicine.
“No matter what situation we’re in, we always look for ways that we could make it better for people,” said George.
“We have a job where you really actually can change the world around you and make it a better place,” said DeWaay.
“Part of being a doctor is accepting the fact that I might be exposed to like different diseases that I could catch and that I could die from. That’s part of the understanding of what comes with the job of becoming a physician,” said Mason.
Some students tell us they are worried bout fatigue though.
“I think it’s going to be hard for a long time and I worry... we’re not taking care of those in the medical field,” said George.
“Maintaining one’s morale is always very, very difficult when one is surrounded by death and dying,” said DeWaay.
They want to make a difference and are willing to risk their own health, both physically and mentally to do it.
“It’s what I want to emulate and become is these physicians, these PAs, these nurses, these other healthcare workers I want to emulate that because they really just take the time despite all that’s going around in the world rushing at them to really care for the people that they’re seeing,” said Mason.
“I think sometimes the pain that we’re surrounded by can make us feel like we’re not making that impact but we really are,” sad DeWaay