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On the front lines in Boston


DW Weekly talks with Sarita Nori, MD, a dermatologist at Atrius Health in Somerville, Massachusetts, about how she has been caring for patients on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis.


DW Weekly: You have been volunteering at the Boston Hope field hospital, which was constructed inside the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center. Can you describe what it’s like working in that space?

Dr. Nori: It’s amazing. If you can imagine the exhibit hall for the AAD conference — they converted that into rows and rows of 10 by six-foot cubicles, erecting approximately 1,000 rooms in five days. It’s basically a place for hospitals to decompress their load and send COVID patients who are stable, and maybe just need oxygen via nasal cannula for a few more days.

The Boston Hope field hospital was constructed inside the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center.
The Boston Hope field hospital was constructed inside the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center.

DW Weekly: Have there been instances where you’ve had to refer back to your medical school training while caring for patients?

Dr. Nori: I finished an internal medicine residency 18 years ago, and some of it came back, but I definitely relied on my hospitalist app to look up some things. I also got to pull out my stethoscope to listen to lungs, which was a little nerve-wracking. I had one patient who was de-satting, and I knew to put him prone on his belly to increase the number of alveoli that were being recruited. That was something I learned from reading ICU and ER blogs.

It was also an adjustment to use a computer for admission orders. It’s nice because it standardizes them, but the last time I did admission orders was in paper charts. So that was a shock, remembering the mnemonics I used to use — now I just click a bunch of boxes.

Dr. Nori dons PPE and a stethoscope while treating COVID-19 patients.
Dr. Nori dons PPE and a stethoscope while treating COVID-19 patients.

DW Weekly: How has your expertise as a dermatologist translated during your time at the Boston Hope?

Dr. Nori: My first night it was me, two orthopedic surgeons, and one internist. The orthopedists disappeared to go to sleep, and I thought, ‘No, everybody’s tucked in. I’m going to get into the EMR and start prepping discharge summaries for the next day.’ That’s a typical derm thing to do. Any of us would have done that; we wouldn’t have just gone to sleep when there was something that needed to be taken care of, because nobody is more efficient than dermatologists.

DW Weekly: What motivated you to volunteer on the front lines of the pandemic?

Dr. Nori: I knew I wasn’t going to be able to live with myself if I hadn’t participated in the biggest medical crisis of my lifetime. I didn’t want to get to the end of my career, look back, and think, ‘Oh yeah, that COVID thing happened, and all I did was a couple of punch biopsies.’ I wanted to scientifically see what this disease looked like in a patient, and I felt useless sitting on the sidelines.


Want to read more? Stay tuned for the September issue of DW for more stories from dermatologists on the front lines of COVID-19.


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