Front-Line Stories

Alicja Salman, MD ’15 Invited to the Big Game Alongside Fellow Healthcare Workers Fighting COVID-19

Alicja Salman, MD ’15 Invited to the Big Game Alongside Fellow Healthcare Workers Fighting COVID-19

It’s not every day you get a free ticket to the Big Game. But that’s exactly what happened for Alicja Salman, MD ’15 and her husband Jacob Salman, MD, both hospitalists at Advocate Aurora Health in Chicago.

The two were invited to Tampa this weekend as a thank-you for their work on the front lines of COVID-19.

“It was a complete surprise,” says Alicja, a 2015 graduate of American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine. Last week, she and her husband joined what they thought was a routine Zoom meeting at work—only to be greeted by a member of the Chicago Bears presenting them with the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. They’re two of 7,500 vaccinated healthcare workers nationwide who were offered this experience by the National Football League (NFL).

A native of Rochester Hills, Michigan, Alicja attended the University of Michigan for undergrad and has a soft spot for the Wolverines when it comes to football. She met her husband, who grew up in Chicago, during internal medicine residency at Wayne State University.

Out of Residency and into a Pandemic

Alicja Salman shows her residency certificateBy her estimate, the two have seen more than 1,000 COVID-19 patients since the pandemic emerged last March.

“We were some of the youngest doctors on the team when COVID-19 started, so we took on extra shifts to relieve older physicians who were more at risk,” she says. “From there, it just escalated.”

Like so many, the couple’s lives were upended by the pandemic. Their hospital shifts grew longer and longer: At one point Alicja worked a nonstop 8-week stretch, and Jacob was on for 10.

“It’s been tiring. I don’t know where the year has gone,” says Alicja. “I’m thankful that I have my husband, who’s been doing the same exact thing. I don’t think we’ve felt the effects as much as others because we can commiserate together. We also do our best to coordinate time off so we can be together.”

How AUC Prepared Alicja for the Frontlines

While treating COVID-19 patients, Alicja has focused on delivering empathetic care—something she took to heart during her time at AUC.

“Our professors didn’t just emphasize knowing the facts and what was going to be tested on the exams. It was also about, how are you going to think outside the box? How are you going to help your patient?” says Alicja.

Alicja Salman in PPEIn particular, she remembers how her clinical medicine course with Dr. Albert van der Waag taught her about the emotional aspect of medicine—how to connect with the patient and understand what they’re going through.

“COVID-19 patients can’t have families in the room; families are distraught because they can’t see their loved ones and don’t know what is going on. So, I’ve been doing a lot of emotional counseling,” says Alicja. “It’s been pretty taxing, but at the same time I feel I am really prepared because I had a well-rounded education that focused on these aspects.”

As a physician, Alicja sees it as her responsibility to educate and support her patients—and the public—about the importance of vaccination. She and her husband were first in line for the vaccine when it became available at their hospital in December. They’ve since been using their platform to advocate for it through both traditional and social media.

“Vaccination is not about you or me,” she says. “It’s about all of humanity getting together to beat this pandemic.”

Disclaimer: AUC School of Medicine is not affiliated with the NFL or their respective teams

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