A Fighter For Patients First

Dr. Mark Watson

Medical Director Of Adult Emergency Services,
NYC Health + Hospitals/ Woodhull

My Role: When the pandemic began, my role was elevated from the normal day-to-day operations. My first and foremost responsibility was to my ED staff to offer them emotional support and prepare them with the proper equipment and PPE to fight this war that we were about to enter.

Tough Moment: One of my worst experiences was with a female patient who came into the emergency room. She was walking and talking to us. She told us she didn't want to stay in the hospital and could take care of this on her own at home. We said we just wanted to observe her, and she finally was convinced that she should stay overnight. Then little by little, within the span of an hour or two, she started to deteriorate and went into respiratory distress. She ultimately passed away – totally unexpected.

Why I'm on the Frontlines: When I finished medical school in 1996 and when I walked across that stage to receive my degree, I took the Hippocratic Oath. The oath wasn't just for when things are great, and you have the right equipment and staffing. The oath was for all times.

My drive was that I took an oath to provide the best care possible, especially for those less fortunate. I'm a fighter. I don't back down.

Success Stories: It has been amazing to see patients who were on respirators and in intensive care units for two or three weeks turn the corner and eventually get discharged. Through this whole episode, the Woodhull family developed a sense of pride, camaraderie and unity, from the senior leadership down to the people working in the trenches. I've never seen so many people rally together. We were all on the same page trying to deal with this pandemic while keeping one thing in mind: It's always about the patients first.

Managing Stress: I'm an avid Salsa dancer. Unfortunately, I'm not able to go to the dance studio or dance club. But what's been remarkable is that a lot of classes have been held online. It's not the same as being there live, but it has helped me to handle my stress because I still get to do what I love.

After work, I go online to my dance school and download the class for the day. It not only kept me going as a mental recharge, but it also kept me going physically because Salsa dancing is like an aerobic exercise. I was able to help myself burn off some of the energy and steam after finishing a 12- or 13-hour shift.