And then the pandemic hit.

Destiney Kirby

Albert Einstein College of Medicine, MS1


March 22, 2020

The personal witnessing of health disparities was what first drove me to a career in medicine during my college years. I saw how the inequities I faced impacted my own life and saw the same of many others in the communities I cared about. I wanted a life defined by service to others and the ability to make tangible changes that would create a better future for marginalized groups. Even as I began my medical school career, I continued this pursuit both inside the classroom and outside of it. And then, the pandemic hit.

After the early encouragement of many loved ones, I made the difficult choice to leave New York City and continue online classes in Phoenix, Arizona. I thought it would be best for my own physical and mental health, as I have many underlying conditions that would put me at a higher risk if I were to contract the virus. I would have better access to healthcare and be in the hands of a system experiencing much less pressure than that of New York City. I would be able to easily exercise outside in the desert and move around the area while maintaining distance from others.

It was a better decision for me, but it does not stop the guilt I feel for leaving in the first place. While I was able to easily leave, there are many other students that have nowhere to escape to. More importantly, there are thousands of families in the Bronx that have no choice but to sit while the city turns to chaos, the families I said I wanted to serve. As of now, I do my best to support the efforts by offering free tutoring to the children of healthcare providers but it still doesn’t feel like it’s enough.

Realistically as a first-year medical student, there are only a limited number of things I could do to help the efforts of the medical community. I try to look at it from a utilitarian prospect: How much good could I truly produce if I were to be in New York City, in person, right now? How much of a burden would I be on the healthcare system if I were to contract the virus and use some of the few resources our hospitals have to treat patients? I don’t know if I chose the right decision. All I can do for now is sit on video calls with some kids a couple of hours a week, post a few virus related infographics on social media, study the Urea Cycle for my test tomorrow, and hope for the best.


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