Resident Roundup: Andrea Flores Burroughs, M.D., Ph.D.


Never in a lifetime could I have imagined beginning residency in the midst of a global pandemic. The year 2020 displayed the delicate balance between life and death, the fragility of the U.S. and global health care systems, the deeply rooted infrastructure of racism in our country, and the contentious political landscape in which we live. The life-changing effects of COVID-19 forced us to shift our priorities and alter our daily lives. 

To capture my experience, I recorded a series of short videos highlighting my feelings in the moment. Some of the excerpts detail my excitement as a new resident, admitting my first patient and signing my first orders. Others highlight the joy of birth during labor and delivery and the sadness of death in the MICU.

I recall working many shifts in the ED where every patient I cared for tested positive for COVID-19. These daunting times were not limited to caring for those in the hospital. The intense fear of exposing my children, husband and neighbors to the virus was equally frightening. Despite the daily challenges, our household was able to adjust to a new way of living.  

Virtual public schools, no extracurricular activities, and limited social interactions painted a very different picture than what our family had known before. For many families, including my own, the possibility of working remotely was not an option and we were forced to make difficult decisions that prioritized our health and well-being. For every essential worker that I encountered during the height of the pandemic, I made it a point to look them in the eyes, over their worn and tired masks. This small gesture of gratitude was not only to let them know “I see you” but also, “I value your work.”   

The strength and resilience of the community was remarkable. Although I was new to the city, the people of the Triangle area found ways to connect in nature, virtually, and through their community organizing efforts. I found myself deeply inspired by the organizing efforts of community groups and health care providers to ensure equitable distribution of COVID vaccines.

Despite the unpredictable start to residency and the generalized feeling of discomfort, I remain optimistic about the future. For those who lived through this time, we cannot erase what we witnessed. For many, this was the first time we collectively felt the pain and suffering of those struggling around us. Like residency, only during the uncomfortable process of learning and growing can we be transformed. My hope—for the sake of future generations—is that we remain uncomfortable.

Andrea Flores Burroughs is a first-year resident with the Duke Family Medicine Residency Program. Email with questions.
Editor’s note: Duke Family Medicine residents guest blog every month. Blogs represent the opinion of the author, not the Duke Family Medicine Residency Program, the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, or Duke University.