On any list of coronavirus heroes, front line medical personnel stand at the top.
Dr. Aaron Hultgren is one of them. And he’s one of ours.
A football and lacrosse player at Swarthmore College, he taught pre-K at a Quaker school in Philadelphia, then earned a master’s in teaching from Brown University.
He taught K-5 science at a private school in Providence. But he’d always wanted to be a doctor. He switched careers, and was accepted into Georgetown’s Medical School Class of 2006.
While there he developed a “Mini Medical School” program — focusing on the human body and careers in medicine — for children in the Washington area.
Aaron did his residency in emergency medicine at NYU/Bellevue, then a public health fellowship in international medicine at Columbia University, where he received his master’s in public health. During that training, he traveled several times to Ghana, for hospital work.
He is now an assistant professor and mentor for NYU medical students. He travels often to Thailand — where his wife Patra’s family is from — to do medical rotations, and continues to teach about the human body to New York City students.
Aaron, Patra and their 3 young children moved to Westport 8 years ago. He enjoys playing lacrosse, skiing, rock climbing, hiking at Earthplace, and going to Norwalk Aquarium and the Peabody Museum with his kids; gardening, and kite flying, paddle boarding and searching for natural treasures at Compo Beach.
But for the past 2 months, he has not done any of that.
As an ER doctor at Bellevue, he’s stayed in New York. First he was in a hotel; now he’s at an NYU dorm.
It scarcely matters. He’s seldom there.
Aaron is scheduled for 8-hour shifts. He’s taken on many more — as well as other duties, like tele-medicine — since the coronavirus struck.
So much happens every day. Even the emergency room has changed. They’re in makeshift spaces, since part of where they worked has been converted to an ICU.
At the height of the crisis, Aaron saw 20 to 30 patients per shift. Many had lower oxygen levels than he’d ever seen. And they stayed on ventilators much longer than usual.
Aaron says that one positive outcome is increased collaboration between physicians in different departments. Everyone helps everywhere; it’s all hands on deck.
And our neighbor, Dr. Aaron Hultgren, is in the middle of it all.
Thank you to you — and your countless colleagues — for all you do for all of us, every day. You are truly Unsung Heroes.
(To nominate an Unsung Hero, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Hat tip: Sandra Long)