In years past, chief residents at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center have cited the thrill of not knowing what each day will bring. As one former chief noted, “You sort of walk into the day with your scheduled meetings, your to-do list, but you realize an email or someone at your door can completely change the way you thought your day was going to be.” Fast forward to 2020–2021, the pandemic-infused year devoid of normalcy.
“In some ways, taking on a leadership and teaching role in such an unprecedented time has meant that we have tackled challenges that we never would have imagined — like conducting family-centered rounds when the whole team couldn’t be at the bedside,” says chief resident Kristen Cercone. “Through trial and error, we learned how to use new technology and find solutions that would allow us to continue to provide high-quality care and education for our patients and residents.”
Such resourceful thinking is required of the job, agree Cercone’s fellow chiefs Jeanette Beaudry and Sam Gottlieb. This is part of what drew them to pediatrics, they say. Other factors that pushed them on that path include an underlying appeal in working with children and families longitudinally over decades. Unlike what they perceive in many adults, they cite “an inherent joy” and optimism in children.
“Kids are resilient in facing serious illnesses,” says Gottlieb, a Georgia native who plans to pursue a career in pediatric hospital medicine. “As pediatricians, we appreciate the opportunity to impact a child’s health over a lifespan.”
Beaudry, who grew up in Philadelphia and attended Columbia Medical School, is taking a different tack through a fellowship in infectious disease (ID), which she plans to complete following her chief residency year. That area of medicine turned out to be especially timely given the coronavirus pandemic.
“I was in the first year of my ID fellowship when the pandemic hit. At that time, our understanding of transmission, prevention, manifestations in children, and management was changing rapidly,” says Beaudry. “While it was enormously challenging to keep up with the latest information and to manage patients who had a new disease process that we were just learning about, it was also exciting to watch the process of discovery unfolding for a novel virus, and it reaffirmed my love for infectious disease.”
What they may have learned about themselves in working together, the chiefs say, is their flexibility. While some chiefs decide to “divide and conquer,” these three have taken an “all hands on deck” approach in supporting each other and the residents they lead. That includes adding to their weekly menu of responsibilities a cooking class, candy rounds, origami lessons and a new snack cart in the chiefs’ office — what they consider special resiliency-building endeavors for pediatric residents during a pandemic.
“Though COVID often added an extra layer of complexity to many of the events we planned and the day-to-day life of ourselves and our residents,” Cercone concludes, “these opportunities to learn and grow we will remember for years to come.”