Five years ago I started the Oregon Physician Moms Group. It’s grown to 1,240 doctor moms. Through that group I’ve become a hub for collecting and giving out PPE. Six Chinese women have been sewing masks day and night, and they drop them off at my house in Portland, where I live with my husband and two daughters. This is particularly touching to me because the Chinese community has gone through so much persecution during COVID. Several other organizations have been sending masks to me, too. It’s been our family project to sort them into bags. In each bag, we put five N95s, five surgical masks, and cloth masks. I leave the bags in a bin on my driveway, and physicians from the group drive up and take them. We’ve given out thousands of masks.
I’ve also been organizing deliveries of meals, masks and a bottle of wine to the Physician Moms. So many physicians tell me that they feel unprotected, that they’re being asked to put themselves and their families at risk. People break down in tears; they’re grateful to have somebody thinking about them and trying to protect them.
I signed up for this, but there’s a daily moral dilemma for me between keeping my family safe and my patients safe. I’ve been splitting my time between hospital work and telemedicine. In the hospital, there are usually just one or two of us covering all of the COVID patients.
For patients, there’s so much anxiety. Their families are not allowed to visit, and the patients feel isolated when health care workers come in with masks or not at all. Patients have talked about how it feels cold and distant for them, because they can’t see our smile. I try to deal with the emotional and spiritual side. I hold their hand and ask questions. I try to give them some kind of meaning. I never push my beliefs on people, but if you encourage them to get in touch with their spirit and their mindset, it affects how they handle the situation.
People have asked me over the years, “Why did you go to seminary, then study philosophy, and then go to med school?” I feel like there was a reason. It actually all fits together.
Dr. Leslie Sanchez-Goettler ’93, hospitalist (board certified in internal medicine) near Portland, Ore.; also holds a master’s degree in theology from Yale and one in philosophy from Cambridge University in England