Care In the Time of Corona: Reflecting on my Calling as a Physician

Care In the Time of Corona: Reflecting on my Calling as a Physician

Megha Shankar, an early-career physician and health services research fellow with Stanford Health Policy and the VA, reflects on her role during the pandemic.

COVID-19 has arrived at a strange point in my career trajectory. Not one year ago, I found myself knee deep in clinical work as I completed my internal medicine residency. Now, as a health services research fellow, my 30-hour hospital shifts have turned into reading, data collection and analysis, and writing, with brief interludes of clinical work. I think back to my colleagues who are completing a clinical fellowship or who entered the clinical workforce – some are in the thick of COVID-19 as infectious disease fellows, others face the risk of infection daily in the emergency department, and my outpatient colleagues have been asked to serve in back up labor pools for hospitals. On a recent call with a friend, she mentioned, “This is the time for us to help, this is our calling!”

Reflecting on my calling as a physician, I wondered what my role was at this moment in time. My current responsibilities prioritize research, but I wonder how I to best leverage my clinical skills during the COVID-19 pandemic. Public health promotion tells me to stay at home, but my instinct tells me to help. Should I pick up more hospital shifts? Would it be best to re-focus my research efforts on coronavirus? In what ways can I contribute to the well-being of the whole world?

Coronavirus has affected literally every aspect of the world – from food and travel industries to finance to healthcare delivery, every person feels the effect. I feel it when I go on walks outside and rather than seeing couples holding hands, I see them walking 6 feet apart. I feel it when I talk to my elderly relatives across international time zones, discussing ways to stay healthy. I feel it when I drive to the hospital and the road is silent. The silence allows me to understand that we each have our role – whether it is to stay home, provide distant counsel for friends, or donate masks. We are all at the front lines, and we all have our calling – the important thing is if we respond to that calling with the welfare of the community in mind.      

A Poem from Dr. Shankar


Latin for: crown, wreath, garland. 

Evoking royalty, nobility, regal power,



What is honor amidst chaos? 


We all hold the honor 

of fighting this pandemic 



Every individual is a manifestation of purpose, 

Every purpose expresses humanity; 

The strength of the group overpowers that of the individual. 


This too, shall pass. 

And it all comes full circle: