Two doctors create newsletter to highlight the unsung heroes of the pandemic

Posted at 4:24 PM, Feb 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-12 22:40:20-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — There's no question that physicians and nurses deserve our praise during this pandemic, but two doctors at Vanderbilt University Medical Center are going out of their way to make sure everyone is getting the credit they so richly deserve.

"Some people don’t really understand how serious COVID can get until they’re in the hospital," said Dr. Michelle Izmaylov, a physician and assistant professor at VUMC.

After nearly a year inside Vanderbilt's COVID ICU unit, Dr. Izmaylov and Dr. Thea Swenson have seen some horrors. "We can’t tell you you’re going to make it, once you start having those conversations," said Izmaylov.

Instead, they choose to dwell on the hope. "Giving a voice to these people who haven’t had a voice in the past," said Dr. Swenson.

They say behind their team of world-class physicians is a group of unsung heroes. "There are just so many people who are in the hospital, helping to take care of patients that we don’t often think about, but I couldn’t do my job without them," said Izmaylov.

So these two doctors started writing tributes to those who inspired them. And so began their newsletter, From Two Doctors.

They introduce us to social workers like Ericka, who's trying to comfort from a distance. Another piece gives readers a first-hand perspective inside a COVID ICU.

One story shares the saga of Francesca Bassa, a renowned athlete, who was poised to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics in the sport of fencing. With COVID-19 overwhelming the area where the qualifier was to be held, she pulled out of the competition to keep her family safe. "She put the Olympics on hold, you can put a piece of fabric on your face. That’s my two cents," said Michelle.

Then there's Tommy the custodian, who keeps a VA Hospital safe. "Cleaning all those rooms, cleaning hallways. They’re a huge part of how we keep other patients safe," said Izmaylov.

Tommy told the two doctors he was initially hesitant to keep working during the pandemic. "I mean he’s scared, he’s as scared as any of us but he’s there because he knows patients need him," said Izmaylov.

In addition to the tributes, the two doctors are taking a step further. Using donations from corporations, they're giving out relief packages to everyone they've profiled. Their sweetest reaction came from Tommy. "He was almost brought to tears by the fact there are people who recognize how much a lot of us are going through," said Michelle.

Swenson says it's the least they can do, for the biggest heroes they know. "We’re trying to bring the community together," she said.

If you'd like to read the From Two Doctors newsletter for yourself, click here.