Heroic First Responder: Bronxville Graduate Dr. Douglas Unis Print

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By Staff

Apr. 29, 2020:  Orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Douglas Unis (Doug), has fond memories of going to the hospital with his orthopedic surgeon father, Dr. George Unis, when he was young. His uncle, Dr. William Unis, is also an orthopedic surgeon. It is no surprise then that Doug went into the field as well. As he says, "I sort of joined the family business.”

Doug graduated from Bronxville High School in 1987 and went on to Duke University (‘91). He received his MD from the Case Western Reserve School of Medicine in Cleveland, Ohio. He then came back to New York to join his father in practice at St. Luke's Roosevelt Hospital, which was later acquired by Mount Sinai Hospital.

Doug is currently an orthopedic surgeon at Mount Sinai Hospital as well as an Associate Professor, Orthopedics at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

When the coronavirus COVID-19 crisis began in New York, Doug immediately volunteered to help. "A lot of my colleagues have been brought in to help," he says. Doug spent a couple of weeks undergoing special online training and then began working with COVID-19 patients in the emergency room at Mount Sinai. "The emergency room has a combination of young internal medicine doctors, retired doctors who have been called back, and doctors like me, who are stepping in to help" says Doug. 

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Doug works a 12-hour night shift in the emergency room. He works for four days on and four days off. There is a continual flow of patients coming into the emergency room during these hours, and 90% of them are COVID-19 patients. "We aren't seeing many typical emergency room patients," says Doug, "most people don't want to go into a hospital right now." Doug says that a large percentage of the COVID-19 patients they see are men who are living in close quarters with others and have pre-existing conditions.

Doug offers some rays of hope in the fight against COVID-19. He says that the number of patients coming into the emergency room seems to be "trending down." Additionally, he says that Mount Sinai is part of a national clinical trial of treatments for COVID-19. This trial includes 150 institutions around the country and 2,500 patients. Some of the drugs in the trial are showing promise. He says that there could be some preliminary results in the coming weeks.

But for now, "these are hard times," says Doug, “people need to quarantine.”  He also says that “we need help from the federal government to get more testing at the state level before we open New York.”

Doug's wife and two children are staying in Maryland at this time, so Doug is on his own at their home in Brooklyn. He says that he has been the recipient of incredible kindness from friends and neighbors. For example, when he arrives home, there is often a meal waiting for him on his doorstep. Also, one morning, everyone on his block sang "New York, New York" in unison when he arrived home.

"These acts of kindness are beyond inspirational.” he says. “we’ll get through this.”

Photos courtesy D. Unis