Every day at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, medical workers are on the front lines of patient care, putting the health of patients above all else. In times of great need, health care providers answer the call, even when it means putting their health—both physical and mental—at risk. Residents and fellows at the School of Medicine see the hard work and dedication of their colleagues, and bring recognition to their teams whenever possible. Two members of the medical school community—Abdominal Organ Transplant Surgery Fellow Teresa Rice, MD, and Leisha Elmore, MD, Administrative Chief Resident of the General Surgery Program—are showing gratitude to their colleagues through Peloton’s special giveaway program, The Comeback.
The Comeback asks submitters to nominate someone who deserves to receive a free Peloton Bike and a 3-year subscription to Peloton classes by sharing “stories of heartbreak and hope, loss and perseverance.” Nurses, ER physicians, pediatricians and radiologists are among the numerous health care workers who have received bikes as part of this program. Submitters frequently cite the selflessness of their nominees as a key reason they deserve the free bike and classes. These are individuals whose physical health is at risk each day, and the opportunity to exercise provides them a much-needed boost.
Rice and Elmore took their nominations a step further. Each of them nominated not an individual resident, fellow or faculty member, but their entire team. These bikes will be housed at the School of Medicine, one in the Abdominal Organ Transplant Surgery Office and the other in the General Surgery Resident Lounge, for use by members of these two vital surgery teams.
Rice, who attended medical school at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, is a fellow in the Abdominal Transplant Surgery Section.
“That means that I’ve completed my general surgery training and have nearly completed two years of specialty training in liver, kidney and pancreas transplant,” Rice explains in her Comeback story. “In our group, we also take care of patients who have cancer of the pancreas and liver, which are some of the rarest and most complicated cancers to treat.”
The Transplant Surgery Section at Washington University is an internationally recognized program with award-winning faculty and record-setting numbers of procedures; for many patients, lifesaving transplant procedures cannot be put on hold, so Rice and her colleagues have continued to perform surgeries.
“I have been incredibly impressed with the entire Abdominal Transplant Surgery Section in this challenging time,” says William Chapman, MD, Section Chief of Transplant Surgery. “They continue to perform with unwavering commitment to our patient population.”
The gravity of this work is not lost on Rice, who sees her colleagues making remarkable sacrifices for their patients.
“Oftentimes, we are performing lifesaving transplants back-to-back while still taking care of complex cancer patients. Maintaining this scope of care requires a large team including surgeons, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, administrative assistants and trainees,” Rice elaborates. “Many of us are unable to be at home because of the long hours and, now, because of quarantine restrictions.”
Rice says that she relies on her personal Peloton bike to maintain her own physical and mental well-being.
“I know that regular exercise will help us keep our minds focused and our bodies strong so that, in turn, we can take better care of our patients,” Rice states. Exercise, especially in times of stress, is important for both mental and physical health. For many health care providers, who are so focused on the health and safety of their patients, personal care becomes a lesser priority in difficult times. Graham Colditz, MD, DrPH, Division Chief of Public Health Sciences, emphasizes the importance of staying mentally and physically healthy in a recent episode of the Show Me the Science podcast.
Chapman, who is also Division Chief of General Surgery, admires the efforts of the transplant fellows. “Knowing that they have the ability to effectively care for themselves and their patients is reassuring,” Chapman says. “This is a team that cares for one another—a true fellowship.”
“Though I will begin by introducing myself,” writes Elmore in her Comeback story, “this story is not about me.” Instead, Elmore, whose family history of cancer drew her to study medicine, says that the story “is about those that I work alongside and watch give 110% of themselves and ask for nothing in return.”
Like Rice, Elmore nominated her entire team—the general surgery residents—for the Comeback. Elmore is nearing the end of her residency. She has experienced the long hours and personal sacrifices involved in surgical training, and wants to leave something to help future residents through their training.
“I watch my colleagues work alongside our faculty to bring someone from the brink of death from a gunshot wound back to life,” Elmore describes. “I see my colleagues remove a cancer that was deemed inoperable by another institution. In short,” she says, “I am in awe of my co-residents and our faculty every day.”
The General Surgery Residency program offers a variety of training venues, from the 350-bed VA hospital to the 250-bed St. Louis Children’s Hospital to the 1300-bed tertiary care Barnes-Jewish Hospital to the 100-bed Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital and the 150-bed Christian Hospital. In addition to the clinical training venues, the residency provides multiple, varied research opportunities in all disciplines, including advanced degree opportunities like the Masters in Population Health Sciences (MPHS). The MPHS program was one of the draws for Elmore, who was among the first MPHS graduating classes.
“In a time where the world no longer looks the way that it has before,” Elmore reflects, “and doing the job we love and providing care to our patients can compromise our lives, I am even more in awe of those I work alongside. Even though stepping foot into work every day is a personal risk my colleagues take, they have not skipped a beat.”
The School of Medicine continues as one of the premier medical schools in the nation, consistently ranking among the top 10 research medical schools by U.S. News & World Report. The Washington University Institute for Surgical Education (WISE) offers residents and other trainees additional learning opportunities its world-class 4,000 square foot WISE Simulation Center.
“What a great addition for our well-being in these tough times,” says Paul Wise, MD, General Surgery Residency Program Director. Wise states that the Peloton bike, which will be available for use by all general surgery residents, adds to the growing collection of popular exercise equipment the residents have access to. “We will have to find a larger space for our General Surgery Gym!”
In the busy day of a resident, finding time to care for oneself is not always the top priority. Having access to this equipment in a convenient space, and knowing that it is the product of another resident taking the time to recognize your hard work can make a big difference in self-care.
“It seems that even though operating and patient care is our primary goal,” Elmore says, “my colleagues are so laser focused because they realize that showing up is what will help stitch up the broken pieces of the world as it exists now.”