In the spring of 2020, Elizabeth called her sister from work wearing full PPE and struggling to speak through the plastic bag she used to protect her phone in the hot zone that the emergency department had become in the height of the first COVID-19 surge in New York City (NYC).
She and her fellow emergency physicians were struggling, she told Nicole. On top of the usual demands of emergency care, they were grappling with an influx of emotion, isolation, and human suffering, but did not have the words or space to express and share their experiences. Despite the flood of news coverage, the reality of their story on the front lines felt painfully missing.
I think you can help, Elizabeth said. With poetry.
She asked Nicole if they could do something similar to Poems from Life – a collaborative Pennsylvania Center for the Book project Nicole works on that pairs poets with residents of Juniper Village Senior Living at Brookline to honor each resident’s life with a poem.
Together, the sisters paired poets with NYC-area physicians to write poems as a way to provide space within and beyond the creative process for catharsis, shared understanding, and healing.
Nicole Miyashiro is a writer-in-residence at the PA Center for the Book – Penn State University. Her work appears in CALYX, The Hudson Review, the Nasty Women Poets anthology, and elsewhere. She also shares Words of Art.
Elizabeth Fernandez, MD
Dr. Elizabeth Fernandez is an attending physician and assistant residency program director. She is a graduate of Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia (now the Sidney Kimmel Medical College) and completed her emergency medicine residency training at SUNY Downstate/Kings County Hospital in 2012. She has a strong interest in innovative curriculum development, medical education, and wellness, and she is bringing those same interests to the new residency program at St. John's. Outside of EM, Elizabeth enjoys world travel, food, cooking (especially big projects that take way too long), scuba diving, and spending time with her family- husband and infant son. She looks forward to the days when she is not wearing a bunny suit, trying to use her phone through a plastic bag at work.