Christopher Digesu, MD (Surgery, BIDMC) and Carrie Tibbles (Graduate Medical Education, BIDMC) discuss how medical residents were impacted by COVID-19, during training and through graduating in this unprecedented time.

WCVB – July 23, 2020

Boston medical residents graduate during unprecedented time

Hundreds of medical residents graduated last month, having wrapped up that training in an unprecedented time. Though their focus may have shifted, it may have been the best preparation they could have received.

Dr. Christopher Digesu just graduated from general surgery residency at Beth Israel Deaconness Medical Center. A Zoom graduation ceremony marked the culmination of years of school and training.

“We still gave little speeches and they gave speeches about us and so we still had the opportunity to sort of celebrate the last 7 years,” Digesu said.

One of the attending physicians Digesu worked with delivered a meal to his home and handed off his diploma. It’s not how he imagined residency wrapping up.

“Sometimes we had people come into the emergency room, but we didn’t know their status but they needed to go and then we found out later on that they had COVID,” Digesu said.

He is one of the more than 670 residents at the hospital at any given time. Many of them were re-assigned as the coronavirus pandemic took over Boston hospitals.

“For the last three and a half months, all of their training has been turned upside down,” said Dr. Carrie Tibbles, the director of graduate medical education at BIDMC.

She said some residents came off their specialties to help manage patients during the height of the coronavirus outbreak in Massachusetts.

“I think this spring just defined what it meant to be a doctor. All of a sudden, I’m going to step up and do what I need to do to take care of my patients and community,” Tibbles said.

She said she’s proud of the work their residents did while also being aware that groups like this one are closing an intense chapter.

“We’re trying to emphasize ‘How do you take care of yourself, how to do you take care of each other and how do you take care of your families?’ and ‘How do you stay healthy so you can take good care of your patients?'” Tibbles said.

Taking care of patients is what Digesu looks forward to, knowing if he can work through COVID-19, he can do just about anything.

“It’s been an incredible learning experience,” Digesu said.