Dr. Brendan Carr came to New York’s Upper West Side to begin work in the Mt. Sinai hospital system in February 2020. Scarcely a month later, the pandemic threw his entire profession into chaos.
Before moving to the city, Carr was working in Emergency Care Coordination at the Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
“It was a little bit surreal to sort of say, ‘Okay, I guess I’m going to move on from disasters and public health emergencies and...go on [to Mount Sinai], to then within a month be calling all my old friends from D.C. and say, ‘This is happening. All the things we talked about...are happening,’” he said.
However, like so many of his colleagues in healthcare, Carr rose immediately to the challenge, working interminable shifts in the emergency room. When he first arrived, he was not yet licensed to practice in New York, and so worked initially in administration. Soon enough, however, he was thrown into the thick of it.
He recalled getting a phone call from an administrator late at night: “They said, ‘What’s that noise?’ I said, ‘I’m in the emergency department.’ They said, ‘What’s going on, weren’t you there yesterday?’ I said, ‘Well, yeah. We’re running out of people.’”
The hardest part of the pandemic “certainly wasn’t working clinically...it was the suffering of the patients,” said Carr. “But even more than that, it was just what it was doing to the faculty and the staff.” He described seeing the healthcare providers around him concerned for their patients’ safety, as well as their own and that of their families.
Carr says he is particularly grateful for the pandemic’s winding down because now that he and his colleagues have room to breathe, they can refocus on their academic interests in medicine.
“It was survival mode for most folks. It’s nice to see people come out of it and [talk about their interests in academic medicine],” said Carr. “All of that was gone, people were just emotionally spent.”
Despite the difficult era in which Dr. Carr moved to New York, he only has good things to say about it now.
“That was a bumpy getting-to-know-you for me for the city,” he said. Unable to experience much of what makes the NYC special due to the lockdowns and his work, he joked, “I didn’t know you guys had restaurants in New York!”
He says he loves the vibrance and diversity of the Upper West Side.
The hospital he now heads has come a long way from its founding as a single hospital in NYC in 1852. It is now one of the oldest and largest teaching hospitals in the United States that is nationally ranked in 11 adult and three pediatric specialties, in the US News & World Report Best Hospitals. “Mount Sinai Hospital excels at caring for the sickest, most medically complex patients in these specialties ranking,” said US News & World Report which ranked it number one nationally in geriatrics.
It now boasts 42,000 employees including 6,600 physicians.
While Mount Sinai’s headquarters is on the East Side, it has a long established presence with its West Side campuses at Mount Sinai Morningside and Mount Sinai West (formerly Mount Sinai Roosevelt.)
”The ethos of service to vulnerable populations and our commitment to take care of them is very much alive in Sinai and Sinai leadership,” said Carr. “For me at Sinai it’s the balance, it’s the fact that we’re a huge world-class research institution also with this deep commitment to never forgetting the mission.”
“It turns out we’re all in it together, and COVID taught us that,” said Carr. “Those of us who live in cities always knew that because we live on top of each other. It’s what makes us thrive, what makes us feel connected to each other.”
“It turns out we’re all in it together, and COVID taught us that. Those of us who live in cities always knew that because we live on top of each other. It’s what makes us thrive, what makes us feel connected to each other.” -Dr. Brendan Carr