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Dispatch from the COVID front lines: Rahel Gizaw
Deeply immersed in patient care, one Tallulah Falls School alum is living out her medical career dreams with a side of artistic expression.
Rahel Gizaw, Class of 2009, is a resident physician specializing in emergency medicine, working primarily at Grady Health Center. She also rotates through Emory’s different campuses and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.
Crediting her experience at TFS with sparking her early plans for attending college, she enrolled at the University of Georgia, graduating in 2013 with a degree in biological sciences.
“Going to boarding school is a rite of passage in my family. They chose TFS because of a family friend who attended and had many great things to say,” Gizaw says. “TFS made me competitive enough to go to my No. 1 choice for college, which had a great pre-med track.”
At TFS, Gizaw met people from across the globe and made lifelong friendships.
“TFS provided an opportunity for one-of-a-kind education and experiences,” she says. “I am still best friends with my old roommates/classmates.”
She says it is hard to fully recognize the positive impact of faculty and staff.
“Mrs. Harris is an absolute gem. No matter how terrible I was at math, she made it enjoyable,” she says. “My dorm counselors Susan Crater, Beth Meek and Sarah Lowry were always there when I needed them. We still keep in touch to this day!”
Being a part of the TFS Centennial Class in 2009 was especially meaningful, she says.
While at TFS, she was captain of the cheerleading squad and editor of the yearbook, as well as a National Honor Society member and a TFS Ambassador.
After UGA, she graduated from the Morehouse School of Medicine in 2019 and is working through her residency at Emory.
She’s one of the many medical heroes of the pandemic, and while it has taken a toll personally, Gizaw is persevering.
“Residency training is undoubtedly difficult, but the addition of a global pandemic makes it 100 times worse,” she says. “I knew when becoming a doctor that I would take care of dying patients. However, I could never anticipate seeing people dying in this way. My heart breaks for those that had to suffer and die alone. Not to mention, having to tell a family that their loved ones are dying over the phone is so unnatural.”
Personal sacrifices are built into a career in medicine but magnified in a global pandemic. Being separated from family has been especially difficult.
“That has been the hardest for me. No matter what safety precautions I take, I’m in constant fear of getting them sick. I went half a year without even seeing them. Since the summer, I have seen my family twice, outside and masked. Thankfully we are all healthy and safe, but I wish I could hug them especially knowing how tomorrow is never guaranteed.”
She hopes to remain in Georgia, working at an academic medical center to collaborate with both residents and medical students.
Although her primary focus is patient care, Gizaw has a creative side that graphically communicates clinical imagery.
Graphic medicine uses visual illustrations in medical education, patient care, and other applications, she says.
“As a med student, I started a platform on Instagram [@PhysicianDoodles] to help provide FOAM (Free Open-Access Medical Education). Since then, my platform has grown, and I hope I can continue to incorporate my doodles even after residency."
Atlanta Medicine Magazine recently featured one of her illustrations as cover art. A serendipitous connection with a colleague who was writing an article for the issue.
“She expressed to me how she needed to find some graphics that related to the struggles during COVID,” she says. “That’s when I told her that I did illustrations, and from there was history.”