Today Magazine Summer 2021 - Page 20

By : Deb O ' Reilly
“ I have always had a drive to serve my community , and I get to do that with my career in medicine ,” said Mark Pappadakis , DO ’ 08 , a GMercyU Biology alum , who is now an attending physician in the Emergency Department at Capital Health in New Jersey .
Dr . Pappadakis works between Capital Health ’ s two main hospitals in Hopewell / Ewing , NJ , and Trenton , NJ . He is also a co-founder of Grassroots Emergency Medicine , an organization focused on healthcare advocacy at a grassroots level .
“ My work with Grassroots EM takes [ my career ] a step further and lets me advocate further for the patients I serve ,” Mark said . “ We will soon use it as a platform to inform the community

Serving Patients , In and Out of the Hospital

with regards to medical news and a basic insight into public health and wellness .”
GMercyU planted the seeds of community service for Mark , as he participated in food drives and Mercy Garden cleanups while a student here . He also was a member of the Biology Student Association ( now called Student Association of Science ), serving as secretary during his junior year . And , he served as an English and ESL tutor for the Academic Resource Center ( now called Student Success Center ), but eventually tutored most of the sciences .
“ Being a tutor helped me realize a love for teaching that I employ now as an Attending Physician with the nurses , medical students , and soon-to-be Residents I work with ,” he said .
Mark earned his Doctor of Osteopathy degree in 2016 from Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine in New York City . He now specializes in Emergency Medicine after completing a three-year Residency at Metropolitan Hospital in NYC in 2019 .
Mark credits many GMercyU professors for his success in medical school , including Michelle McEliece , PhD for building his confidence as a first-year student , and Felicia Barbieri , PhD whose guidance set him up on the path towards medical school . Yet Mark also believes the Honors Program at GMercyU led to his overall success as a physician .
“ The ability to synthesize and weigh pieces of information and apply it to treating my patients is one of the most challenging aspects of my career . The other is having a level of empathy for my patients where I can effectively treat them as a person , not just a body with moving parts ,” Mark said . “ Seeing things from another perspective , taking a mental journey into conversations and topics you ’ re uncomfortable with I believe is key to understanding the kind of impact social pressures have on the diseases my patients present with . That level of thinking and analysis was strongly developed during my time in the Honors Program and cultivated by many of the professors that taught me .”
On a professional level , this last year was like trying to herd cats through a dark tunnel with a handful of wet matches . Physicians of all specialties were navigating uncharted waters , and a profession that prides itself on “ evidence ” was suddenly faced with a significant lack thereof . When the breakthroughs occurred , they were celebrated but always met with an uneasy feeling of when the next shoe would drop . When setbacks occurred , it was defeating to say the least . In one moment , people were calling us heroes , and in the next , lambasting us for not doing enough .
For the last year , I fought a war on two fronts : in the ER with patients dying in front of me from a virus we didn ’ t — still don ’ t — fully understand , and on social media against a misinformation campaign that has led to more unnecessary deaths .
Experiencing the Pandemic , First-Hand
At night after a shift , I would wonder if I made the right choice in distancing myself from my family , or would it all be for nothing and would my last memory of them be on an iPad as they lay in an ICU bed on a ventilator anyway , and how I missed out on just a little more time with them . Or even yet , would their last image of me be like one of many physicians and nurses who lay dying in an ICU from this virus ; another number in an already grim statistic .
The pandemic hit during my first year as a fully-fledged Attending , and it was a crash course in what it really means to run an ER and deal with incredibly complex pathology .
Now with the vaccine out , our COVID-19 numbers are declining and the fear that once gripped me every time I walked in for a shift has given way to hope .
On a personal level , I have many images and faces of the patients I have cared for imprinted on my mind . I was one of the first in my group who intubated a COVID-positive patient before we knew delayed intubation and permissive hypoxia was a viable thing for treatment .
I witnessed family members checking in , and saying goodbye , to their loved ones in the ER on FaceTime . I put myself into a two month-long quarantine away from my parents and fiancé in an effort to see if the precautions I took at work would be enough to prevent me from getting ill .
After postponing our wedding last year , my fiancé and I are excited to resume our wedding planning for this fall . I ’ m also looking forward to seeing friends and family that I hadn ’ t seen in well over a year .
If there is one lesson to be learned from this last year , it ’ s that time is fleeting . Little things that we take for granted can be taken away in an instant , so best to enjoy them in the moment .
- Dr . Mark Pappadakis ’ 08