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Reflections of a Onetime Shortstop

May 24, 2020
by Mark David Siegel

Hi everyone:

My childhood idol was Bud Harrelson, the Mets’ legendary shortstop. He was a slim 5’11”, an anemic hitter but slick fielder. I spent years preparing to replace him once he retired.

In case you didn’t know, shortstops play baseball’s most essential position. They patrol the infield, take cutoff throws from the outfield, field grounders over a huge range, tag out runners trying to steal second, and scamper into the outfield to catch fly balls. The best shortstops are quick and nimble and brave enough to absorb slides from runners trying to knock them down.

I practiced endlessly, preparing for Buddy’s retirement, fielding thousands of grounders and popups, day after day, over endless summers. I got pretty good. I could sense where balls were going before they were hit, subconsciously calculating the physics of pitch placement, ball velocity, and bat speed. Before the pitch was thrown I was on my toes, ready to break in any direction. Shortstops can’t control where the ball goes, but the best are ready for anything.

Alas, I never made it to the majors, but the years of practice prepared me for the unknown.

Like Covid. Who knows if cases will surge when the state opens up, or whether a second wave will come? Will there ever be an effective vaccine? Might it even disappear, despite our predictions, like ancient plagues of yellow fever and cholera?

But here’s what we do know. The number of cases at Yale-New Haven is finally dropping, now below 200. Though we still have many patients in the ICU, that number is dropping too, so we can start contracting our critical care teams and start returning residents to other rotations. But the epidemic is far from over, and we have many factors to consider—changes in the weather, businesses opening up, the mandate to resume normal hospital operations, residents graduating and new ones coming in—as we prepare for the weeks ahead.

There’s little we can do individually to predict, let alone control, future waves, but we can control how we prepare as a residency, and this morning is a good time to restate our principles: a commitment to broad-based training, to exceptional patient care, to trainee wellness and safety, to transparency, and to giving residents a voice in decision making.

This much we can say:

  • As the number of hospitalized Covid patients drops, we will return towards regular schedules, prioritizing clinic and then, as soon as we can, reopening subspecialty rotations.
  • We will continue to pursue non-resident options for Covid care, so we can free up residents for other experiences.
  • The rising Chiefs are working hard on next year’s schedule, recognizing that we won’t be back to “normal” when the year starts.
  • Though rotation details are still being worked out, the Chiefs will send out vacation schedules very soon.
  • As the Covid numbers drop, eligible residents should be able to start moonlighting soon, hopefully as early as June.
  • When the new interns start, we will switch MICU structures to enhance supervision, likely with a resident present at all times to supervise two interns.
  • We will remain flexible, knowing that surges and second waves can come at any time.
  • Whatever happens, we will be guided by our commitment to your training and well-being, recognizing the monumental contributions you have already made during this historic time.

As in baseball, we can’t completely control what comes our way, but we can prepare as much as possible, responding to changing conditions, maintaining our focus, and keeping our eyes glued to the ball.

Have a restful Memorial Day weekend, everyone, and please set aside a moment to honor the brave servicemen and servicewomen who made the ultimate sacrifice to defend our country.


Submitted by Mark David Siegel on May 24, 2020