Dr. Thomas Travels to New York to Care for COVID-19 Patients
We connected with Dr. Andrew Thomas just before he left for New York a few weeks ago to serve COVID-19 patients. We are tremendously thankful for the sacrifice of Dr. Thomas, as well as that of frontline healthcare workers across the country.
Q: How are you connected to New York?
Dr. Thomas: I went to medical school in New York at Columbia University. Later I did my surgery residency at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt, a Columbia-affiliated hospital that is just across the street from Columbia’s main campus on 116th street. One of the things that is notable about this particular medical school is that way back when they built the hospital, they decided to build a dormitory for the students that is just a half block from the hospital. It’s called Bard Hall and it’s a great old building where there are fireplaces in many of the dorm rooms and lovely common gathering spaces with big windows overlooking the Hudson River. It turns out that all of the medical students have been sent home, so the building is mostly empty. With this in mind, I’ve gotten in touch with the housing department and am hoping that—for my stay in New York—I can live in the same room I lived in as a first-year medical student.
Q: How has your early training as a general surgeon help prepare you for a situation like this?
Dr. Thomas: A big part of General Surgery training is the management of patients in the critical care setting. During the second and third year of residency, we spent a little over a year more or less living in an ICU, managing ventilators, lines and myriad things that are part of the care of such ill people. I will be drawing on this experience.
Q: How will your experience in the military be helpful?
Dr. Thomas: Prior to going to college, I was an enlisted soldier and as part of that experience ended up being a sentinel at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery outside of Washington, D.C. Teamwork, trust in a system, and the ability to keep moving forward under challenging circumstance are all qualities that were part of my time as an infantryman that translate to other parts of life. More importantly was my time at Arlington, where daily one is surrounded by acre after acre of headstones reminding us of the sacrifice of others to a cause greater than themselves.
Q: Do you have a sense of what you will be doing in the hospital? At which hospital system you will be?
Dr. Thomas: I arrive in New York tomorrow, April 8, in the afternoon. For two days after arrival, I will doing “apprentice” rounds with critical care doctors who will be teaching what they have come to learn about ICU management of SARS-CoV-2 patients. After this, I’ve been asked to sign up for ICU shifts either at Columbia Presbyterian medical center or one of the outlying hospitals.
Q: What led you to make this decision?
Dr. Thomas: The patients and the system are in need and under great strain. I have a New York medical license and active board certification in General Surgery, which qualified me to do this work.
Q: How have your wife and girls responded to your decision?
Dr. Thomas: Angela, my wife, has been very supportive of doing this work, though she’s also a bit worried. The children — Katherine 17, Cordelia 15, and Lucy 13 — have also been great. Cordelia went with me to One World Surgery’s center in Honduras last year, which has made her excited and interested in all things medical.
Q: How have your partners and team members at Summit responded to your decision?
Dr. Thomas: Everyone at Summit has been wonderful and supportive at every level throughout this process. Thanks so much to everyone!
Q: How is service, as well as providing hope and healing, part of Summit’s culture?
Dr. Thomas: Service to others is, ultimately, the thing we do here at Summit. I think that this is just another facet of what we as a group try to manifest. Really, it is little different from the ideals that are lived by Dr. Daly and LuLu when they set up the program in Honduras and what everyone here at Summit does every day.
We have been receiving updates regularly from Dr. Thomas, and continue to be amazed at how he embodies the spirit of service. Thank you, Dr. Thomas!
“I am continually amazed by the mixture of strength, elegance, and humanity that come together in my patients’ hands and feel fortunate to be able to play a role in helping them when they encounter disease or injury as they seek
to return to strength and function.”
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