Beginning in April, as the number of COVID-19 cases surged in New York City and a sense of uncertainty pervaded Boston, a group of Brigham residents and fellows searched for a sense of hope. Amalie Chen, MD, Jennifer Hong, MD, Julia Jezmir, MD, MBA, Joshua Lang, MD, Becca Lichtin, MD, Benjamin Parker, MD, MBA,  and Yannis Valtis, MD, and along with a creative team led by Lilian Mehrel, MFA, and Yoav Magid, MA, started brainstorming ways to find inspiring stories from the frontlines and share them with others. The team began recording short videos of colleagues at the Brigham and beyond to foster a greater connection across the community and show that, even amid fear, there were stories of hope, inspiration and recovery. They began by asking, “What brings you hope in this crisis?” While the videos first focused on stories about the response to COVID-19, in the wake of the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, they also discussed the crisis of racial injustice and its intersection with the COVID pandemic.

To date, “Stories Behind the Mask” includes more than 35 stories from the health care community in the battle against COVID-19 and racism. In the following excerpts from these videos, members of the Brigham community share stories and scenes from the front lines. Watch the full videos on Twitter and contact if you’d like to share your story.


“A patient of mine was diagnosed with COVID-19 at the end of April. The patient had to be intubated and received the most advanced forms of life support. Fast forward two months, and the patient was extubated. With our help, he was able to stand up for the first time in two months and take his first steps. Those first steps are so symbolic because the patient’s body went through hell and back and was still able to recover. If the human body is able to recover from such a severe disease, then surely we can all take the first steps towards addressing the injustice and racism in the world and move forward in this journey together.”

David Duong, MD, MPH, Associate Physician

“The night George Floyd died I was angry, I was sad, but most of all I was tired. Tired of watching the same scenario occur over and over again. But my colleagues surprised me. They organized rallies, wrote memos, addressed the hospital leadership to push change. I don’t know what the future holds or if tomorrow will better than today. But I’m proud to be walking forward with some of the bravest people I know.”

Chijioke Nze, MD, MPH, Internal Medicine Resident


 “I set up a zoom call with a dying patient, his wife, and the rest of his family who were not allowed into the hospital. One of the daughters suggested we sing “This Little Light of Mine.” It was a perfect song because this father was obviously going to be his family’s guiding light for the rest of their lives. I certainly left that call with a full heart.”

Peg Newman, M. Ed., BCC, Chaplain


“We had gathered to discuss one of the sickest patients in the ICU, who also happened to be a young African American woman 34 weeks pregnant with ruptured membranes. To my left, a labor and delivery nurse. To my right, the patient’s MICU nurse. Between them, two respiratory therapists and ten physicians representing a range of specialties from high risk obstetrics, pulmonary and critical care, neonatal intensive care, and anesthesiology. Could the best of medicine save one mother and her unborn child? Three weeks later, she and her baby girl would soon be leaving the hospital.  By virtue of the color of her skin, she has inherited all the injustices, inequities and racism that this country in its horrific shame has and continues to inflict. Their story, perseverance and bravery would ignite our courage to ask an even bigger question: can the best of this country save itself? Can we build trust where oppression, discrimination and hatred run free and unpunished?”

Sophia Hayes, MD, Internal Medicine Resident

“My shining light for this COVID-19 situation was Operation Hope. It celebrated patients who recovered from COVID-19. When we started seeing people recovering it brought us hope, and we started playing music to celebrate. We initiated Operation Hope, and the whole hospital came to cheer the patients on.”

Debora Nicholas, Patient Access Services Main Information Desk

“We cannot afford to ignore racism anymore. It’s here in our hospital. It’s in the way we treat our patients. It’s in the access that our patients have to resources or lack thereof. It’s within some of us. It’s something we have to address and work on.”

Duaa AbdelHameid, MD, Internal Medicine Resident



“I met this gentleman who had been in the hospital for almost two months, and we did Operation Hope for him when he was discharged. I watched him take in his first deep breath of fresh air after two months, and it was an emotional moment. In such a time when it seems like there’s so much badness in the world, we can’t let that outshine the good because there’s a lot of that too.”

Amalie Chen, MD, Neurology Resident


“We have something called the butterfly project where we decorate the outside of the patient’s room with butterflies so that the other staff know that this family and patient might require more emotional support in this tough time. What we didn’t know is that this patient’s favorite animal was a butterfly, so when she found out what we did, her face lit up. You could tell that she was just so comforted by the fact that she was surrounded by all these butterflies. When she eventually passed, I attended the services and the family gave me one of her personal butterflies from her collection. The son phoned me when the pandemic began to say he was thinking of me and to give him a call if I never needed anything. It’s moments like this that give me hope in the job that I do. This is why I do what I do, this is why I strive to make relationships with my patients and their families.”

Kate Cowden, RN, Med Surg Nurse


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