The global pandemic may have pushed pause for in-person clinical rotations but two third-year Ross University School of Medicine students at St. Joseph Mercy Oakland Hospital in Michigan—Katherine Francis and Ramzi Ibrahim—found the fast-forward button. They aren’t waiting around for the next cue; they’ve found ways to lend a hand to those they shadowed earlier this year.
“This is unbelievable—it feels almost like when the hurricane hit during my first semester,” Katherine said comparing COVID-19 to the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria in 2017. “It’s surreal and I can’t believe it’s happening. As a doctor going into the medical field, it’s amazing to watch everyone stepping up to the plate to help right now. It’s tough for the patients—they can’t even see who’s caring for them. All they see is a set of eyes and I can imagine it’s isolating for them but it’s also a big switch for healthcare workers.”
Restless sitting on the sidelines, Katherine found a way to contribute. She joined a student research group that gathers raw COVID-19 data that will later be analyzed. “We can see how patients are doing from different points of view—comorbidity, how treatments are working and other issues.” The group began collection shortly after students were dismissed from clinicals as a safety precaution. St. Joe doctors then asked for student volunteers. “I had to jump in. We have access to electronic medical records on our phones so we can review the progress notes, make sure overnight patients didn’t have adverse events, read the complaints and look through notes from nurses and specialists. It’s a way for us to help care for patients from afar.”
Inspired to enter the medical field from family members, Katherine said she is intrigued with how a body works internally. The internal medicine student was able to witness various procedures, echocardiograms and arrythmias before the virus stopped hands-on work. Now she is enrolled in an online elective with Cleveland Clinic but misses the patient interaction. For fun, Katherine enjoys watching movies, taste-testing different culinary cuisine and traveling. Moving to Miami from Nicaragua 20 years ago, Katherine said she looks forward to exploring Michigan once the state reopens and planning a visit to the Sunshine State to reunite with her family.
Another internal medicine student, Ramzi Ibrahim, stepped into the medical world after watching his dad provide care to pulmonary patients. And now he gets a front-row seat for a variety of diagnoses and treatments. “I love internal medicine. As young trainees, we go into medical school with a goal of changing healthcare—being a part of the future in medicine. But that’s all changed so now we want to do whatever we can to support our community healthcare heroes.” Ramzi started the year by assisting residents and focusing on non-COVID-related ailments such as diabetes and hypertension, but he wasn’t satisfied with sitting out while the pandemic took over.
He soon began offering support to residents—documentation, notes and listing current symptoms, while also providing telehealth care and social support to patients. “We ask if they’ve talked with their loved ones. We tell them that we’re here for them.” Disappointed that he can no longer experience face-to-face lessons from attending physicians, whom he refers to as his work family, Ramzi said, “I’m going to do whatever it takes. You have to go above and beyond for the residents if you want to get the most out of this experience.”
Born in New Jersey, Ramzi lived in Jordan for a bit before settling in Arizona with his mom and brother, who team together to run the family clothing store. “I get the chance to build a bond with my friends and family now that I couldn’t have done if COVID hadn’t happened.” He praises Ross Med for ensuring there wasn’t an education gap due to the virus and has enjoyed learning virtually. Besides continuing his medical studies, Ramzi spends time exercising, reading books and playing games.
Despite all the chaos, Ramzi continues to seek out the positive during these tough times. “This pandemic is tough but it’s making medical students stronger. This experience will make us more resilient and more adaptable. Now we will be able to work through whatever is thrown at us. There are going to be a lot of bumps in the road to becoming the physicians we want to be and we need to learn to overcome challenges like this. We should try and be like all those physicians out there who have put their heart and soul into this job every day.”
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