Residents Helping Residents
Mita Shah Hoppenfeld, MD, rising chief resident in internal medicine at Stanford, was already busy. It’s a pandemic, she’s working long residency hours, and she has a toddler at home—although, she hastens to add, she also has “a very supportive partner who’s taken on a lot of the childcare.”
But she recently had a vacation block, and during this time she decided to take on yet another project: a GoFundMe project called Residents Helping Residents, raising money for food gift cards to donate to residents in New York hospitals, which so far are the hardest hit in the country with COVID-19 patients.
She started the project, she said, partly out of a slight feeling of survivor’s guilt. “You get trained in medicine to be a healthcare provider and to give as much help as you can,” she explained, and since we in the Bay Area don’t have the high volume of patients that somewhere like New York has, we can count ourselves lucky.
“I can only imagine the sort of decisions that my colleagues in New York hospitals are making,” Hoppenfeld said. “I felt very helpless, and I wanted to do something, and I thought, ‘One of the things that always brings me joy is food. I wish I could just make sure that they feed themselves because that's the first thing that I stop doing when I'm on really busy rotations.’” She brought her idea to her fellow rising co-chief residents, Andrew Moore and Adrian Castillo, and both of them enthusiastically supported her. The GoFundMe page went live on March 27th.
She initially set the goal for $5000, but reached it so quickly she moved it up—it now stands at $20,000. The hospitals she’s supporting have expanded as well, from Columbia, NYU, and Lennox Hill to “areas that are disproportionately affected because of multiple social determinants of health,” like SUNY Downstate, NewYork-Presbyterian Queens, and Elmhurst Hospital. Initially the program was just meant to help the internal medicine residents, but that expanded, too, as doctors from all different specialties were called in to help with the crisis.
Hoppenfeld is also in contact with the hospitals to see how they’d like to use the money—some might use DoorDash gift cards, others Ubers for doctors too exhausted to drive home, or even for gifts of coffee for busy healthcare workers in need of a pick-me-up.
One hospital specifically requested words of support from Hoppenfeld and her fellow residents, citing low morale, and she and her colleagues sent a bundle of encouragements.
The fundraiser is ongoing, Hoppenfeld said, and she’s grateful to anyone who wants to help, either by donating money or simply sharing on social media.
She’s so grateful to the New York doctors and healthcare workers: “I can only imagine what these people are going through, exhausted, giving not just 100% of their physical selves, but also their emotional selves, their decision-making selves, constantly. And to be able to give them something small, tangible, but meaningful in a way that says, ‘you're seen, you're supported, you're loved, you're thanked,’ is huge.”
Words of Support
The following are excerpts of the words of support Mita and her fellow residents sent to their colleagues in New York.
"There are no words to express how much we are all pulling for you, supporting you from afar, afraid for you, feeling for you... I know you’re the right people for a job no one should have to do."
"We are living through times that many generations never see, and you are on the front lines of it...We are deeply grateful, inspired and humbled by your service at this time."
"Every single one of you exemplifies the type of physician I can only aspire to be and remind me why I went into medicine in the first place."
"This is a situation that few could have imagined and it's all of you on the front lines who are making a difference every day."
"In the midst of the suffering, know that we are all supporting you and cheering you on."