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Building a Community

June 13, 2021
by Mark David Siegel

To work well, a hospital must be a tightly-knit community of people who respect one another and enjoy working together

-Paul Beeson, M.D.

Hi everyone,

I finally returned to Citi Field yesterday. It took nearly two years, but with the pandemic fading, the Mets are letting fans back in the park. I plan to spend many Saturdays in Flushing this season with Howard Goldman, my buddy since third grade.

Like baseball, residency is returning to normal too. By summer, we should be back to in-person teaching, and by fall, we should be holding retreats. We’re just waiting for Yale to give us the “all clear.”

Which brings me to orientation, which began last week. In many ways, this year’s orientation is like any other. The interns will get their IDs and learn to use Epic. We’ll have bootcamp and other workshops, and on June 21, we’ll have new faces on the wards.

Those are the easy parts of orientation, which pandemics can’t stop. But the most important part of orientation—community building—will take work. In normal times, we’d have picnics, scavenger hunts, and a pizza truck. Between health screenings and white-coat fitting, the interns would get to know each other. Long afternoons would meld into evening meals and visits to apartments. Unfortunately, residual restrictions keep us from having formal events this year, but that reality doesn’t make community building less important, nor does it keep us from having informal gatherings in the days ahead.

Community is one of the pillars of wellness, up there with exercise, sleep, and nutrition. With community, there will always be someone to help you when the work piles up. There will always be someone to check on you when you’re exhausted, and there will always be someone to commiserate with you, so you don’t imagine you’re the only one thinking internship is hard. Community inoculates you against loneliness and isolation. With community, you can thrive.

But for every intern to thrive, we need to build community, starting now. So, here’s my advice to our orientees: after logging out of Zoom, meet up. Compare the pizza at Sally’s and Pepe’s,* hike up Sleeping Giant, and try the ice cream at Arethusa. Run up East Rock together and enjoy the view. And pop by my office to say hi- I’d love to see you.

It may seem like a different kind of orientation this year, but it doesn’t have to be. Like always, the most important part of orientation is what happens during the blanks on the schedule. Your job is to fill in the blanks- to make friends, have fun, and build a community.

Enjoy this beautiful Sunday, everyone. I’m heading out for a bike ride.


*If I were you, I’d go to Zeneli.

PS My residency community (and yes, someday we can discuss how pharmaceutical companies used to sponsor resident softball teams…)


Submitted by Mark David Siegel on June 13, 2021