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Meals4Healers: An empathy-focused, community-run initiative for trainees who are impacted by COVID-19

January 10, 2022
by Claudia-Santi Ferrante Fernandes

In the spring of 2020, when many trainees were home recovering from COVID-19 and restaurants were closed, Dr. Claudia-Santi F. Fernandes, an Assistant Professor in the Section of General Internal Medicine, had a question: How do we safely care for our trainees with something that feels like a hug when we can't physically hug them? From this question, Meals4Healers was born. The initial goals of Meals4Healers were multi-pronged: 1) provide nutritious meals to trainees quarantining or isolating due to COVID-19; 2) deliver empathy-focused messages for an extra layer of compassion; 3) support local New Haven restaurants who have been impacted by the pandemic; 4) provide a safe way for community members to show their gratitude and make an immediate impact. Almost two years later, Meals4Healers is still operating and is still needed, especially during the most recent Omicron surge.

To expand and to serve more healthcare workers across the Yale network, Meals4Healers is now run out of the Graduate Medical Education office with significant support from Dr. Stephen Huot, Dr. Andies Asnes, and Mrs. Cindie Petersen. With generous donations from Yale faculty and the New Haven community, the initiative has raised nearly $40,000 and fed over 1500 meals to trainees while simultaneously helping to keep our favorite local dining spots afloat.

Meals4Healers provides a "bundle" of nutritious meals once per week. The program relies upon members of each residency and fellowship program to identify a delivery person who retrieves the meals at the restaurant and delivers them to the quarantined trainee - a way to ensure all funds support restaurants in preparing nourishing meals.

A recent Meals4Healers recipient shared that the program "made (him) feel (he) was not alone." Another wrote: "My family is extremely grateful for all of this delicious food and these wise words. The light has been this amazing community that has banded together in these difficult times. We know not everyone is as lucky as we are to have you. Thank you."

Submitted by Vivian DuBrava on January 31, 2022