The Badass 50: Healthcare Workers Who Are Saving the Day
Eighteen-hour shifts. End-of-life care. Lack of proper equipment. Frontline healthcare workers have been facing seemingly insurmountable challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic. And yet they get the job done. We see photos of these workers with their faces obscured by PPE. But they are real people, often women, who have families and enjoy fashion and beauty as much as we do. We went state by state to celebrate them not only for what they’ve done but also for who they are.
ALABAMA: TAMICKA JONES, Registered Nurse
Jones treats the “sickest of the sick” in the COVID-19 wing of her Birmingham hospital. From the start of the pandemic, she was the person who developed protocols to keep everything and everyone organized amid the growing chaos facing her community. She was also praised for making sure that clean personal protective equipment (PPE) was available outside patients’ doors so her team could easily access it. Her advice? “Stay home and stay strong. I know it’s hard, but we can do it.” When restrictions are lifted, Jones looks forward to putting on a nice suit and heels and hanging out with her fiancé, kids, and the rest of her family.
ALASKA: ANNE ZINK, Chief Medical Officer
Dr. Zink, who has been streaming coronavirus briefings directly from her home-office yurt, became a trusted voice for Alaskans throughout the pandemic. Her calm, concise updates urging people to follow strict safety guidelines helped keep her state’s coronavirus cases among the lowest in the country. For those public appearances, she says dressing comfortably has been critical to her confidence. “It’s fun to see everyone being resilient and resourceful. I think Alaskans have that in their nature,” she says. “Don’t hold off until this is ‘all over.’ Continue to find ways to live in this new world.”
ARIZONA: LAUREN LEANDER, Critical Care Nurse
"As a girl I was really shy. For years all of my report cards would say, 'We love Lauren, but she's so quiet. We wish she would participate more. Speak up more,’” says the nurse, who made national headlines for going head-to-head with protesters at her state's capitol building in April. "Ironically, on the day of the rally, my silence said more than my words ever could." While working in the COVID-19 unit of her hospital for the past few months, Leander says, she has felt the most badass in her scrubs alongside her co-workers. But she's looking forward to the day when she can change into her favorite little black dress and leopard-print heels for a long overdue night out on the town. Until then, "help us help you," Leander says. And as cases in her state surge to new highs, the nurse remains determined to continue fighting. “The virus is getting personal. People are starting to know someone who has the virus or who has lost a family member because of it,” she says. “From here, we go back to where we began. Stay home, social distance, hand wash, and mask up. This is not over. But lives can still be saved.”
ARKANSAS: UCHENNA ONYIA-MURPHY & ONA ONYIA, Nurse Practitioner & Registered Nurse
The mother-daughter duo left Little Rock to help fight the pandemic at the Elmhurst Hospital Center in Queens — the county with the most confirmed cases in New York state. The two are on opposite schedules, but they check in with each other between shifts. "At work I forget about myself and think about my sick patients," says Onyia-Murphy. "And I pray constantly for my children, especially Ona." She can't wait to have a reason to trade her scrubs for her favorite traditional Nigerian outfit sometime in the future. But for now, Onyia-Murphy has extended her contract to continue battling COVID-19 where she's needed most.
CALIFORNIA: CHANEL FISCHETTI, ER Doctor and Chief Medical Officer at Centaur Labs
Dr. Fischetti, an avid runner, relocated to Connecticut early on to assist at two hospitals in the state. In almost every shift since then, she has had to intubate patients and have end-of-life conversations. "As an ER doctor, you learn to function well in chaos," says the Orange County-born physician, who previously worked in hospitals across Southern California. "Not all shifts are glorious, but I feel most badass when I help save a life." On her days off, she works in medical AI, developing ways to improve image analysis related to COVID-19 to combat misinformation about the virus. Now, even as cases in her home state continue to rise, she is holding on to hope for a brighter future. “Unfortunately, I don't see society normalizing until we have a vaccine, which, hopefully, will come by 2021,” she says. “The most important part about moving forward in the interim is staying positive. There are silver linings that have also come out of this. And I'm excited to see how these times will inspire our youth to become the next great minds in medicine and science.”
VIDEO: Describe Your Experience Working on the Front Lines Fighting COVID-19
COLORADO: ANGELA MARCHIN, OB-GYN
"My frontline battles were less about the virus and more against the politicians who took advantage of the pandemic to restrict a woman's right to choose," says the obstetrician-gynecologist, who practices in her home state and in Kansas. Since the onset of COVID-19, she has been providing care to up to 20 patients a day, often from neighboring states that restricted or effectively eliminated access to abortions because they were deemed nonurgent. "I had to go to Kansas twice as often to meet the need of patients who traveled there from out of state [to have access to an abortion]," she says, adding that she remains committed to being there for patients when they need her most. "This experience has taught me that I can be scared and strong at the same time.
CONNECTICUT: ADRIANNA COLLINS, School and ER Nurse
When the school where she worked shut down, Collins went straight to help out in her local ER. Even when she lost her father, who lived in a nursing home, to COVID-19, she jumped back into work the very next day. Now she splits her time between caring for her family, working in the ER, preparing school staff for students' return in her role as a nursing supervisor, and, most recently, in honor of her dad, investigating nursing homes to ensure they are properly using PPE. It's all been a bit overwhelming, but Collins refuses to quit: "Life hands me challenges, and I am just fueled by them."
DELAWARE: MAUREEN SECKEL, Clinical Nurse Specialist at ChristianaCare
After 42 years as a nurse, Seckel had just decided to ease into retirement when COVID-19 hit. Instead, the grandmother of two returned to her hospital full-time. "I wanted to be in the room where it happens," she says. Throughout her career, Seckel, who has a penchant for wearing purple mascara, has treated patients battling many different diseases, including HIV/AIDS. "Has it been scary? Yes. Has it been sad? Yes. But it's also been fulfilling."
GEORGIA: SANTANA SIMS, Registered Nurse
Helping her fellow healthcare workers is something that has been on Sims's radar since last year, when she co-founded Nurses Support 911, a nonprofit dedicated to making sure that medical professionals feel cared for through mentorship programs and special events. Now the group has shifted focus to deliver packages to those working on the front lines of the pandemic. "No matter what type of day I've had, no matter what type of patients I've had to take care of, no matter how tired I am or how bad my feet hurt, the next day I'm going to come back to give my all and save lives," says the resilient nurse. When Sims does get a rare moment to herself, she likes to tend to her eyebrows. "I feel the most beautiful when my eyebrows are on fleek," she says with a smile. "As long as my eyebrows are done, I am good." She also loves to spend time at the gym. "I feel the most confident when I'm working out with my personal trainer, [who also happens to be] my husband."
FLORIDA: STEPHANIE AGUIRRE, ICU Nurse
"On the one hand, you're taking care of a critically ill patient who is fighting for his or her life, and on the other hand, you have that person's family depending on you to remind the patient to continue fighting," says Aguirre. "Some days you feel amazing; some days you feel run-down. But giving up is never an option." In addition to overseeing a 16-bed rapid-response unit in Miami and studying for her master's degree, the nurse works with local restaurants and independent clothing shops to coordinate meal and mask donations for her staff. Once it is safe, Aguirre looks forward to indulging in a well-earned pampering session at the nail salon. Until then, as cases rise and restaurants, gyms, and other businesses in her area are forced to re-close, the nurse urges Floridians to get serious about protecting themselves and others. “I think the rise of cases in Florida, particularly in Miami, has to do with the population jumping the gun and ignoring safety guidelines,” she says. “Moving forward, my best advice is to once again buckle down and take necessary precautions.”
HAWAII: LOVELEE TAGUDIN, Registered Nurse
"You try to be the best nurse you can be and take care of these patients with the most updated information, but it's also a lot of pressure because I don't want to accidentally take this virus home," says Tagudin. Through the pandemic, the Maui nurse says she has built up her inner strength and learned how to adapt to face the day's challenges. Outside the hospital, Tagudin likes to work on her physical strength too. "Seeing myself get stronger really makes me feel good," she says.
VIDEO: What Have You Learned While Fighting COVID-19 on the Front Lines?
IDAHO: NABILA HAMID, Environmental Services Technician
The Sudanese refugee and single mom of two boys moved to Idaho in 2012. At St. Luke's Meridian Medical Center she is responsible for deep-cleaning all surfaces so patients stay protected. Her work is critical to the hospital's safety, since it prevents the virus from spreading. "I love this job," she says. "I feel proud to work here because I see the nurses and doctors work hard every day." Hamid was preparing to take an exam to become a certified nurse assistant days before the virus hit. She looks forward to the chance to get back to her studies. Outside of work, she says she also cannot wait for an occasion to wear one of her favorite hijabs and a colorful dress.
ILLINOIS: KRISTEN PÈREZ, Registered Nurse
"Nurses really run the show," says Pérez, who has been working exclusively in the COVID-19-care wing of her Chicago hospital. Because of PPE shortages, the nurse had to fight for N95 masks for herself and her team. Once things improve, Pérez says she will be hitting the dance studio to blow off some steam. "When I'm having a good day in dance class, getting the choreography, feeling like myself, and making it my own, I really feel badass." The best way to assist nurses like Pérez? "Be kind and support each other in the struggles that we're all going through."
INDIANA: CAROLYN SCOTT, Travel Nurse
"If you feel called, run towards the fire," says Scott, who dropped everything and rushed to fight COVID-19 at New York-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital. Even though the nurse has faced challenges like PPE shortages (her mom and aunt had to step in to hand-sew masks for Scott, who used them over her N95 masks to lengthen their use), she says she still loves her job. "It was hard to see people do everything they could to help and it not be enough," Scott says. "But I've learned that there are so many good people doing incredible things to make sure we respect human life."
IOWA: MEGAN SRINIVAS, Infectious Disease Specialist and Research Fellow
As the only infectious-disease physician in a 70-mile radius, Dr. Srinivas of Fort Dodge serves as a guiding light for her rural hometown. The University of North Carolina research fellow was vocal early on in the pandemic about the lack of PPE and testing in communities like hers. Now the 33-year-old is speaking out against state representatives who are trying to cut budgets for the CDC, a measure the doctor considers dangerous to public safety. "I have learned that my young age is never an obstacle to fighting for what's right."
KANSAS: KRISTINA GENTON, Registered Nurse
Nursing means the world to Genton. "It's never been work to me. It's been more of a lifestyle," says Genton, whose positive attitude is often punctuated by a pair of fun earrings like her favorite glittery gold hoops. "You've got to have all the sparkle," she says. "They just make me feel complete and good about myself." The nurse's best advice for people is to stay hopeful, taking this crisis one day at time. "Everything you do matters. [It can] make a big difference," she says. "So, celebrate the little successes and we can keep getting through this.
KENTUCKY: JESSICA GREER, ICU NURSE
As an impromptu home-school teacher to her two boys, a lifeline to her patients in the ICU, and a student pursuing her nurse-practitioner degree, Greer moves at a breakneck pace. And while her schedule doesn't leave much room for her to focus on herself, she loves making time to go the extra mile for her patients. Recently Greer gave a COVID-19 patient who was isolated from her family a big boost by washing and brushing her tangled hair. "We have had a lot of loss," she says when reflecting on the past few months. "But we've had some really good wins too."
LOUISIANA: YANTI TURANG, ER Nurse and Deputy COVID-19 Center Medical Monitoring Manager
"I feel the most badass and confident when I'm singing and playing in my rock-and-roll band," says the Aussie-born nurse with a smile. It's been a while since Turang has had the chance to bust a move with her bandmates in her beloved overalls and high-heeled boots. And the stress of helping to manage the COVID-19 center in New Orleans, one of the hardest-hit cities in the country, hasn't been easy to handle. But Turang hasn't skipped a beat when it comes to caring for her patients. "We need to think about protecting others," she says. "And I need to continue to work with an open mind and be prepared for whatever comes around the corner."
MAINE: KACEY PETERS, ER Nurse
Between shifts at the height of the crisis, Peters, a new mom to an 8-month-old girl, also took care of her father, who had contracted COVID-19 (and has since recovered). "Don't let fear overwhelm you," she says. "You gotta find things that make you happy." Pre-pandemic, the distance runner had been training for five months to run the Boston Marathon in honor of Boston Children's Hospital. She plans to return to her training regimen now that the race has been postponed to September.
MARYLAND: ALIYA JONES, Deputy Secretary for the Maryland Department of Health's Behavioral Health Administration
Shortly before COVID-19 took hold in the U.S., Dr. Jones accepted her position as a mental-health leader in her state. Though the pandemic has been tough on the mom of two — Jones admits with a laugh that she's looking forward to the end of homeschooling her 10-year-old — she hasn't let anything keep her from making sure that frontline workers have access to important mental-health resources. Her best advice? "Just be brave," she says. "Be brave by being safe. Be brave by sitting with uncomfortable feelings. Be brave enough to recognize when you're not OK. And be brave enough to get the help you need." Dr. Jones says that her favorite set of pearls, given to her by her husband and kids, acts as a tangible reminder of the people she loves and why she works so hard to keep standing up for herself and others.
MASSACHUSETTS: AUDREY LI, Internal Medicine Resident
The virus has pushed this second-year medical resident and Princeton University grad to reconsider how her race plays into her work. "Early on in the pandemic a patient told me to go back to my country, which hurt," she says. "But what shocked me the most was that I had forgotten that my race was a factor to some people. Being able to forget your race day-to-day and navigating those interactions is a huge privilege, one that my Black and brown colleagues don't have." Dr. Li, who has also been participating in recent Black Lives Matter protests in her area, says she appreciates the mounting support from her peers: "I know there are really awesome people out there who are willing to fight with me for a better future for all of us."
MICHIGAN: MOLLY LIXEY, Infusion Nurse
Lixey made national headlines in early April when a video she posted to Facebook explaining how easily germs can spread from gloved hands went viral. Months later, she hopes change will come after quarantine, which has led to increases in domestic violence, poverty, and mental-health struggles. "My goal coming out of this is just to treat people with more kindness," she says. Lixey adds that her secret to getting the job done, in and out of the ER, literally starts with putting her best foot forward: "When I accomplish things, whether it is hiking 13 miles with 30 pounds on my back, saving a life at 40,000 feet as a flight nurse, or riding my Harley, I'm almost always wearing boots."
MINNESOTA: CHRISTINA (YING YING) CHEN, Geriatrician
In mid-March, when President Trump started calling COVID-19 the Chinese virus, the Mayo Clinic's Dr. Chen helped recruit 16 fellow Asian-American frontline workers across the country to participate in a now-viral video that focused on the hate their communities were experiencing. "We all have unique skill sets and unique strengths," she says. "[We should] use them to support and encourage each other so that we can really come together, heal from this, and persevere." In her downtime, Dr. Chen enjoys shopping for the perfect statement purse. But as of late the only thing she's been carrying is a doctor's bag. "Ultimately, tough times never last, but the tough people do."
MISSISSIPPI: LORETTA JACKSON-WILLIAMS, Vice Dean for Medical Education and Professor of Emergency Medicine
"It has been the perfect storm," says the University of Mississippi Medical Center educator, who has not only continued to work in the ER during the pandemic but also continued teaching. Through interacting with her students, Jackson-Williams has come to understand some of the lasting effects of this moment. "In addition to being vigilant about the coronavirus, we have had to manage major economic and social disruption," she says. "There will be numerous history lessons about this for years to come.
MISSOURI: KALA BAKER, Registered Nurse
As a nurse in the cardiac unit of Mercy Hospital in Springfield, Baker did not have the high influx of COVID-19 patients that her friends in New York or other hard-hit states did. So she made use of her free time by spreading positivity the virtual way via TikTok. After her shifts, she has led her fellow nurses in dances to songs that have gone viral, like Megan Thee Stallion's "Savage." "It was a way for us to find joy," the bubbly nurse says, adding that she is most excited to hug her family and friends again after distancing is done. "I miss my people." Until then, she says, selflessness is key. "If everyone thought of others by wearing their masks and keeping their germs to themselves, we would see a huge difference," she says. "That is my hope."
MONTANA: ANNJEANETTE BELCOURT, Psychologist and Public Health and Pharmacy Professor
"Our tribal communities have a lot of stories of resilience, strength, and courage that haven't always been heard," says Belcourt, a member of the Mandan and Hidatsa tribes and a descendant of the Blackfeet and Chippewa nations. The University of Montana professor has been raising awareness about how COVID-19 more negatively affects Native American communities, which tend to lack advanced medical care or access to essential supplies. "We all need each other, and we all need hope," she says, adding that she feels most badass when wearing jewelry made by Native artists, like the earrings she wore on her graduation day.
NEBRASKA: LORENA SALAZAR, Dental Assistant
"I feel the most confident when I am a mother and role model to my son," says Salazar. Her son has many reasons to be proud of his mama, a OneWorld Community Health Center dental assistant in Omaha who put down her floss to volunteer at an overwhelmed COVID-19 testing site in her neighborhood. "I've learned that life is short," she says. "My best advice for people in Nebraska is to take this pandemic seriously. Think about your loved ones and everyone who is hurting."
VIDEO: What Makes You a Badass?
NEVADA: SUSAN YOWELL, Travel Nurse Manager
The Mesquite native spent the past three years before the coronavirus hit teaching nurses and tending to patients in Silicon Valley, a nine-hour drive from her home. When she heard New York's governor Andrew Cuomo call for help in March, she hopped on a plane and headed east to work with patients in newly formed ICUs. But this isn't Yowell's first time jumping into action during a crisis. The nurse of 40 years also came to N.Y.C. to help after 9/11 and traveled to Oakland, Calif., during the Ebola outbreak of 2014. "Change is not easy for anyone," she says. "We are all still learning."
NEW HAMPSHIRE: DANIELLE FENN, Registered Nurse
This Brazilian nurse is on a mission to ensure every COVID-19 patient at her hospital feels heard. After treating a scared patient from Brazil who spoke little English, Fenn made signs in multiple languages and hung them up around the hospital to help patients and caretakers better communicate. "Nothing will get in the way of me providing safe and quality care to my patients," says Fenn, who is looking forward to letting her hair down and putting on a dress with heels after things improve. That's not to say she needs the clothes to feel confident: "I'm a Latina; I was born a badass."
NEW JERSEY: JAMIE NIGRO, ER Nurse
"I feel badass and confident when I save someone's life. [The feeling] is indescribable," says Nigro. Though she has seen many patients and even co-workers fall critically ill during the pandemic, the nurse, known to sport a bright red lip when she needs some extra oomph, is determined to carry on. "I'm a lot stronger than I thought I was," she says. "I can remain calm during chaos."
NEW MEXICO: LAURA SHAFFER & CHRISTINA SALAS, Flight Nurse & Assistant Professor
When the Navajo Nation put out a call for essential supplies, CSI Aviation flight nurse Shaffer and University of New Mexico assistant professor Salas joined forces to 3D-print face masks and other PPE. By recruiting engineering students, faculty, and nurses, the pair created a 24/7 mask-manufacturing and distribution service run by volunteers. "It has been so exhilarating," says Shaffer, who adds that a simple smile is the most effective way for her to lift her mood. When the pandemic is over, Salas will be back in her favorite Vans, but she's not there yet. "Just when we're all tired, we see the numbers increase, we see the deaths increase, and we really find the ability within ourselves to work harder."
NEW YORK: AMNA MASOUD, EMT
"I feel most brave when I put on my uniform and find the courage to help others unconditionally," says Masoud, who has served N.Y.C., one of the cities hardest hit by COVID-19, since 2018. Responding to relentless 911 calls and treating patients before they make it to the hospital have taught her a lot about inner strength. "Within these past two years, and especially since the COVID-19 outbreak, I've become more confident in standing up for what I believe is right and needed within a situation," she says. When she's not on the clock, Masoud is a skateboarder and basketballer who also enjoys putting together outfits (like the one seen here) that make her feel stylish and powerful.
NORTH CAROLINA: KATIE PASSARETTI, Epidemiologist and Infectious Disease Doctor
As medical director of infection prevention at Atrium Health, Passaretti has tackled everything from her state's fight against Ebola to the common flu. And though helping to coordinate North Carolina's response to a global pandemic poses unprecedented obstacles, she remains undaunted. "Figuring out how to make sure [patients and staff] are safe has been challenging but also rewarding," she says.
NORTH DAKOTA: JESSICA NOESKE, Registered Nurse
Noeske knows how to step up when she's needed. While in nursing school in Las Vegas during the 2017 mass shooting that killed 59 people and injured hundreds more, she tended to many of the victims. When COVID-19 hit, she valiantly volunteered (as a single woman) to work with affected patients to take the pressure off co-workers at risk of spreading the virus to kids or family members at home. "Nurses are super-resilient," she says. "We can adapt to any situation and work in just about any environment."
OHIO: TRISHA WISE-DRAPER, Medical Director of the University of Cincinnati Cancer Center's Clinical Trials Office and Associate Professor of Medicine
Dr. Wise-Draper leads two clinical trials to monitor the effects of COVID-19 on patients with cancer. She hopes the studies will help oncologists everywhere better understand how to treat infected patients with compromised immune systems. "Cancer never stops, whether there is a pandemic or not, making my position more critical than ever," she says.
OKLAHOMA: RACHEL FRANKLIN, Family Medicine Specialist
When she saw claims on social media that doctors were exaggerating the number of coronavirus cases in her state, Dr. Franklin, who set up and runs her hospital's COVID-19 respiratory care clinic, spoke up in a local news interview to set the record straight. As head of the Family Medicine Center of Oklahoma University Physicians, the largest group of its kind in the state, Dr. Franklin remains dedicated to advocating for her fellow medical professionals. "I have nothing left to prove to anyone," she says. "It is my turn to devote my energies to help those still fighting to be heard."
OREGON: ESTHER CHOO, ER Doctor and Co-Founder of Time's Up Healthcare
Dr. Choo not only continues to care for COVID-19-positive patients in her ER but also uses her social media platforms (which include over 166,000 followers on Twitter alone) to draw attention to various issues within the healthcare system. A founding member of the Time's Up Healthcare division, she is dedicated to fighting gender discrimination. On Twitter, Dr. "At Least Wear a Mask" Choo (her handle on the platform) is no stranger to wielding this kind of influence; in fact, it gives her strength. "When I am able to advocate successfully for the health of our country and draw attention to unnoticed health inequities, I feel badass," she says, adding that a power suit with pockets can help too.
PENNSYLVANIA: ALLIE TOCZYLOWSKI & ERIN DONOHUE, Surgical Trauma ICU Nurses
When Philadelphia nurses Toczylowski and Donohue noticed that their workplace environment had taken a negative turn as the effects of the pandemic began to sink in, they decided to brighten the days of patients and staffers alike. They created an Instagram page dubbed the Sunshine Committee and decorated their hospital's parking garages and hallways with uplifting phrases drawn in sidewalk chalk. The duo thrive on spreading hope throughout the hospital. "When you have a positive outlook, you can change the narrative of the situation itself," says Donohue (above, right), who is looking forward to taking off her mask so she can return to wearing a bold lip. "It's been life-changing to take a situation that has been so scary and turn it into something so positive. [We're] just trying to spread the sunshine."
RHODE ISLAND: ELIZABETH GOLDBERG, ER Doctor
"I've taken care of old people, young people, couples with COVID— I've taken care of people who have died and people who have lived," says Dr. Goldberg, reflecting on her experience in the ER. "It's humbling." She says finding strength in tough times has meant focusing on teaching as well as learning alongside Brown University medical students, nurses, and residents at her hospitals. Her best advice? "[Keep] exercising and eating well," she says. "Go to the hospital when you're ill, [focus on] mental health — all these things are exceptionally important."
SOUTH CAROLINA: ALYSSA RHEINGOLD, Clinical Psychologist and Professor:
Dr. Rheingold started a mental-health support program that offers services to healthcare workers on the front lines. She says her best advice for everyone right now to manage anxiety, exhaustion, or burnout is to concentrate on the little things. "Be intentional about what you do each day," she says. "Have a routine and learn a few coping strategies such as mindfulness or relaxation." To unwind, the doctor loves to dance to TikTok videos with her teenage daughter. Now that the number of new cases in her state set record highs, Dr. Rheingold emphasizes the importance of taking time to recharge. “Adapting to this chronic, ongoing stressor takes self-care,” she says. “Exercise, healthy eating, and sleep are all essential.”
SOUTH DAKOTA: ALLISON SUTTLE, Chief Medical Officer at Sanford Health
"Our guiding principle has been to stick to the science of the virus," says Dr. Suttle, one of the lead doctors in charge of managing her area's COVID-19 response. "What we've been able to do is stick to facts over fear." Dr. Suttle, who practices yoga to stay centered, encourages people to get used to new safety measures like masks and social distancing and is hopeful about the future. "A vaccine will come out, which won't be a cure-all. But there will be other treatments," she says. "And as we did with any other new disease in our lifetime, we will learn more about this one.
TENNESSEE: MELINDA HENDERSON, Lieutenant Colonel U.S. Army Reserve Physician
Lt. Col. Henderson has worked for over 15 years as an internist and geriatrician providing care for seniors and other vulnerable populations. When she was called back to active duty in early April in response to COVID-19, she left her practice and flew to the East Coast to aid over 700 patients at the Boston Hope Field Hospital. “I feel most confident when I am part of a purpose-driven community," she says. "This can be as simple as doing an obstacle course at Army training or being a part of an incredible team of medics, nurses, physicians, and soldiers." Now, as cases in her home state steadily rise, the doctor is urging everyone to keep following as many safety precautions as possible. “These actions will help make sure our hospitals can continue to serve all patients,” she says. When she's not in her fatigues, Dr. Henderson has a style that's a bit more sleek. "Clearly, wearing [my Army] uniform makes me feel good," she says. "But a simple black suit is a close second when I want to look my best."
TEXAS: DOLORES DIAZ, Registered Nurse and Homeless Outreach Medical Services Program Nurse Manager
"If your staff sees you step into the line of fire, they will back you 100 percent," says the Dallas nurse, who has been helping to set up and train teams at drive-through COVID-19 testing centers across her area. "It takes all hands on deck and a wonderful group of every discipline to make this happen," she adds. Outside of wearing PPE, Diaz feels most ready to take on the world when she's in a nice dress, heels, and accent jewelry.
UTAH: ANGELA DUNN, State Epidemiologist
"If we have an E. coli outbreak due to contaminated spinach, we don't have elected officials telling us what to do," says Dr. Dunn, referring to the unique challenges she has faced in coordinating her state's COVID-19 response with local politicians. But she sees increased awareness as a chance to strengthen public-health partnerships. Dr. Dunn says she is also not surprised by the recent rise in COVID-19 cases in various states, including hers, across the country. “We allowed mass gatherings. We allowed businesses to reopen. And with that we saw an increased number of cases. That was to be expected,” she says. “This is not a sprint. We have to continue to be vigilant. Just wearing a face mask can reduce transmission by up to 80 percent. So, when you wear a face mask you are saving lives.” Dr. Dunn, who's been working 15-to-18-hour days over the past few months, says being armed with expertise helps her to be confident in tough meetings, but high heels, a body-con dress, and a moto jacket don't hurt either. "I'm already 5 foot 11," she says, "so adding a few more inches definitely gives me that badass feel."
VERMONT: GWEN MOORE, CAT Scan Technologist
"Working on the front lines has been stressful, and being pregnant for the first time adds a whole other layer of uncertainty," says the University of Vermont Medical Center's lead CT scan technologist. Her job within the radiology department of her hospital's ER can be mentally taxing on the best of days, but Moore's commitment to patients is as steadfast as ever. Thinking about her happy future with her husband, a jeweler who designs custom pieces for her, keeps her going too. "I'll be proud to tell my daughter someday what I went through when I was pregnant with her," she says.
VIRGINIA: LEIGH-ANN WEBB & EBONY JADE HILTON, ER Doctor and Chief Experience Officer of the Get Well Company & Associate Professor of Anesthesiology and Critical Care Medicine and Co-Founder of Good Stock Consulting
These two University of Virginia educators, doctors, and change-makers teamed up to write and produce a free children's book called We're Going to Be O.K., geared toward communities of color that have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19. Their goal was to alleviate some of the stress that stems from the uncertainty surrounding the virus. In her day-to-day life, Dr. Hilton says she takes after her fashionable 80-year-old grandmother, who loves a good stiletto, when leading major meetings. "If you catch me in a pair of nice heels, you can best believe I have something to say," she says, laughing. Dr. Webb agrees. "There's something special about being able to engage and command an entire room," she says, adding that she goes for a smoky eye and a "sexy, sassy, and professional" outfit when she speaks in front of an audience.
WASHINGTON: SACHITA SHAH, ER Doctor (Left)
Dr. Shah was one of the first to treat COVID-19 patients before the nation knew the virus had traveled stateside. "I have experience in global health. I'm used to making something out of nothing in places with limited resources," she says. "I've just never had to do that in my home state." Outside of the hospital, the self-described extrovert enjoys taking on home-improvement projects. "I feel great when I learn to use new power tools," she says. She also looks forward to getting her eyelashes done again, which was her "secret little way of feeling glamorous." Until then, she is relying on yoga to get her through.
WEST VIRGINIA: AYNE AMJAD, Internal Medicine and Public Health Specialist (Above, Right)
The doctor, born and raised near her practice in Beckley, wasted no time launching her state's first mobile COVID-19 testing site out of her office parking lot immediately after the first two cases were confirmed in northern West Virginia. Since then she and her staff have opened up additional tents and used telemedicine to address issues beyond the virus, from mental health to opioid addiction. With help from her Goldendoodle, she also started "Dr. Sophie Bear's Clinic," a physical tent and social video series that explains COVID-19 to kids who might be afraid to get tested. "I feel the most badass when my staff believes in what we're doing, believes in me, and believes in being part of the team," she says. Dr. Amjad is now shifting focus to her latest #wearamask campaign, which encourages people to continue wearing protective gear as businesses start to reopen. "Be kind, keep moving forward, and #wearamask," she says.
WISCONSIN: ELIZABETH RILEY, Registered Nurse
Despite not having worked in an ICU for years, the rural Wisconsin nurse made the move to the Woodhull Medical Center in Brooklyn after hearing Governor Cuomo's call for help. Riley worked 17 straight 12-hour shifts over three weeks in head-to-toe PPE, but the protective gear wasn't enough to shield her from the virus. Riley, or "Buffy," is now on the mend from COVID-19. And despite all she has been through, she says she looks back on her time in New York with pride. "There were days when all I saw was death and the hollow loneliness that follows," she says, adding that the tough days inspired her to advocate for people facing inequities that the virus brought to light. "I have a platform, and there is confidence that comes with it," she says. "I can make the world a better place."
WYOMING: CHRISTINE PORTER, Public Health Expert and Associate Professor
"Even before the pandemic, there were a lot of Americans who didn't have the things that they need to stay healthy, like clean air, clean water, and access to health care," says the University of Wyoming associate professor. Tired of witnessing and hearing about the tragedies surrounding COVID-19, Porter is taking it upon herself to become a formidable voice in her state for the most vulnerable populations. "I have learned how to keep working even while I'm crying," she says. "I've also learned how to feel hopeful despite everything because I think this time's different."
—Additional writing and reporting by Tessa Petak, Sydney Haymond, and Kathleen Burns
InStyle is proud to celebrate the health-care professionals profiled in this feature. In partnership with Dove, EltaMD, L’Oréal Paris, Lake & Skye, and Skechers, we have gifted them various self-care essentials as a small token of appreciation for all that they do. We extend a huge thank you to them — and to our partners for making this possible.