Heroic First Responder: Bronxville Graduate Dr. Gwen Cody Print

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By Staff

May 6, 2020: Dr. Gwen Cody grew up in Bronxville and attended the Bronxville School K-12, where she played field hockey, enjoyed her courses, especially math and science, and made great friends.

In her senior year of high school, Gwen lost her father to cancer. This was a pivotal moment in Gwen's life. She was forced to realize that "none of us can take our health for granted." It also gave her a deep desire to "make her life meaningful" and to help people and ultimately propelled her into the healthcare field.

After high school (BHS '07), Gwen went on to Georgetown University, where she majored in Health Care Management & Policy and minored in Economics. While at Georgetown, Gwen particularly appreciated Georgetown's philosophy of "care of the whole person."

Upon graduation, Gwen traveled in Asia for eight months before starting a job at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, helping coordinate clinical trials for ovarian cancer. She then studied pre-med at Columbia College in an accelerated 15-month program. She went on to the NYU School of Medicine on a full-tuition academic scholarship called the Silverstein Scholarship. NYU School of Medicine now offers all its students a tuition-free education.

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Among Gwen's honors at the NYU School of Medicine was receiving the Alpha Omega Award, which is given to the graduating student with the highest scholastic rating for the four years of medical school. She was also selected by fellow students to speak at the annual awards dinner, which this year, due to COVID-19, wasn't able to happen.

In April of this year, the NYU School of Medicine offered seniors who met graduation requirements the opportunity to graduate early and help on the front lines of the coronavirus COVID-19 epidemic. Gwen stepped up to the plate and is now working with COVID-19 patients on the medical floor at Bellevue Hospital, which is part of the NYU Health & Hospitals network.

Gwen is a junior physician and works 12-hours a day, six days a week.  She works as part of a team to care for patients. The team includes doctors with different specialties who have come to help during the pandemic as well as nurses. At the beginning of her shift, she meets with a team, and they review each patient and determine a course of action. 

Gwen says that one of the biggest challenges of the job is that each patient is different, so each treatment plan is different. For example, one patient may experience problems with their kidneys, and Gwen and her team need to consult a kidney specialist. Another might have difficulty breathing, and the team needs to determine what treatment is required, drawing on the doctors with expertise in these areas.

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She also says that while appropriate PPE (personal protective equipment) is essential for the safety of health care workers and patients, it can create a barrier to connecting and communicating with patients. "Without seeing our faces, it's harder for patients to tell their providers apart," says Gwen. "My patients can't see my facial expressions, and sometimes I find myself having to shout to make sure my questions are audible through my N95 respirator and face shield."

If you asked friends of Gwen's what is remarkable about her, many would say that it's her kindness and selflessness. It's not surprising then that one of the aspects of her job that she views as vitally important is speaking with family members who cannot be at the hospital with their loved ones. "I give them a daily update and answer any questions they might have," she says, "it's really important because they can't be there."

Gwen is heartened by the number of nurses, physician assistants, and anesthesiologists who have come to New York to help. "Every day, I work with nurses who have come to Bellevue from all around the country (California, Alabama, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas) to help care for my fellow New Yorkers. We have never needed them more, and their presence and hard work is refreshing and inspiring."

Gwen sees some good news at the moment with the number of people coming into the hospital declining and the number of people going home increasing. 

"This is a really tough disease," says Gwen, "and it's good that people are social distancing right now." "Eventually, things will get better," she says, "but it will take time."


Photos courtesy G. Cody




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