As a physician assistant in San Francisco, Traci Thomas ’07 is working day and night (literally) to care for patients, many of whom are suffering from COVID-19. She took a moment to answer some of our questions and share her story with the Bronco Community. Thank you, Traci, for representing Santa Clara University so well and for all your efforts in helping to keep our community safe!
1. What does an average day look like for you now?
I'm working on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic in two different capacities. By day, I work from home as a clinician for a healthcare concierge company called Grand Rounds, doing telemedicine. This has been quite busy as many medical offices have been forced to close due to Covid-19 or are overwhelmed with sick patients. At night and on the weekends, I work in the emergency room at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital. Outside of the COVID-19 situation, I am employed by the S.F. Public Health Department as a sexual assault forensic examiner treating adult and pediatric victims of assault, domestic violence, and human trafficking. However, as disaster services workers, many of us have now been deployed to help treat patients who have tested positive for Covid-19. I enjoy my work deeply and like the balance of doing telemedicine when I’m home with my kids while also still practicing hands-on clinical medicine. I am grateful for my experience at Santa Clara, as it cultivated this interest in public health through a commitment to social responsibility and the idea that we are all connected.
2. What has been the most challenging aspect of your work during this unprecedented time?
First, the sheer volume of patients needing help. I've always been able to see a lot of patients in the clinic, but this is no comparison. Second would be challenges with our global healthcare system including funding, access, and red tape. Third is the emotional toll it takes. It's very draining to help people all day while also being personally affected on many levels. So, feeling as though I can't escape it is difficult. The guilt that goes along with vocalizing when I'm struggling when others have it much worse is also challenging. At the same time, I’m grateful that I can do this work, and also feel a responsibility to help others. Finally, I worry about knowing that once this initial pandemic is controlled, we are still facing years of ripple complications from those with chronic conditions who couldn’t be cared for, and a surge of mental illness that was already under-addressed in our country.
3. Have there been moments of joy? What inspires you?
The moments of joy are what fuel me to continue to do this each day. I like being able to bridge the gap in care during the pandemic by practicing telemedicine, and when I'm working for the public health department, I love the idea that I'm part of a bigger picture in terms of changing the face of healthcare. This pandemic will force us to redesign and reevaluate our approach to healthcare in this country. I believe it's my social responsibility to help since I have the means, as we are all connected. It's the first time everyone in the world has had to face the same issue. To me, that is an inspiring and powerful thought.
4. How are you caring for yourself? Who is supporting you?
I could be better about this, but I really am trying. Providers are the worst patients, right? Honestly, I have had my share of emotional meltdowns, but I'm also trying to be patient and gentle with myself. There is no manual on how to suddenly manage everything in our lives during a pandemic, so just trying to focus on one day at a time has helped. My husband has been the most supportive. It has been challenging trying to juggle two jobs while caring for my two toddlers since schools are closed. But we developed a system to divide and conquer responsibilities in the home and spend time with our children, while we are both working from home. Getting outside really centers me, whether cycling or being near the ocean. I have been trying to do this daily.
5. What can Broncos do to support their communities during this time?
Stay home, social distance, support local business, trust your healthcare professionals, and care for yourself so you don't need to come see me!
6. What is your favorite place on SCU’s campus?
My favorite place on campus is, of course, the Mission Gardens. When I was at Santa Clara, I also liked studying in Nobili Hall or enjoying the sun by the since removed Graham pool.