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COVID-19 and “The Elephant in the Room”

Small group of hospital staff in gowns and masks hugging on hospital wardEditors’ Note:  At the 2021 graduation ceremony for Montefiore’s Moses-Weiler Internal Medicine program, graduate Omar Moussa, M.D. shared a poem about the extraordinary circumstances his class faced due to COVID-19. What follows is that poem, titled, “Graduation 2021 – Monte Made.”

Where else can we start but
with the elephant in the room,
An elephant morphed into a virus that’s forcing us to be on Zoom.

You see COVID hit when we were halfway
through our second year,
Overnight we went from trainees to
trainers and leaders without fear.
We walked to work while the world clapped
and cheered for our cause,
But we could hardly hear their applause over the sounds of changing of the guards.

“Bed 6 tends to wander, Bed 7’s got Zoster,
Bed 8 is a watcher, and Bed 9…
we just lost her.”
But you should really know Bed 9 – she was a mom, a sister, a dog walker and a PhD,
She led a book club and taught
a college course in Chemistry,
Her last words in agony were “I can’t breathe,”
The same words we kept hearing on our TV,
As we watched George Floyd
fall victim to police brutality,
We knelt, but only in solidarity,
We couldn’t be there, you see,
It’s not that we didn’t want to be,
But we had to keep pushing for
our marginalized community,
The beautiful Bronx, of all places,
was in desperate need.

Every hour of every day.

Another patient on the way,
Another intubation tray,
Another confused voice on the phone asking if it’s going to be okay,
I don’t know – but doc, he was just
fine when he woke up today,
And the president on the news said this thing would be over yesterday.

We laughed and we cried
beneath our masks to survive,
For survival was the goal – nobody could have expected us to thrive,
But thrive we did, publishing case reports, posters and papers by the droves,
It just goes to show,
Nothing is impossible, not to these folks.

So what words can I say to inspire those who inspired the whole world,
We became heroes overnight
as our stories uncurled.
We watched our reality literally
filmed as documentary,
And now we will watch as our trajectory becomes history and then our memory.

Resilience was the word, mind over matter.
Class of 2021, how about one last
“would you rather?”

Would you rather change the world or
accept this current state of affairs?
I know you enough to know your answer – and I can’t wait to see how
you change the standard of care,

Wherever you go, keep your chest out and chin up, and never let your confidence be swayed,
For today, tomorrow, and till the end of time – we will always be Monte Made.

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Omar Moussa, M.D.

Omar Moussa, M.D.

Dr. Moussa is a recent graduate of and a current chief resident of the Moses-Weiler Internal Medicine residency program at Montefiore.

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