Dozens of medical school students have been volunteering as NYC COVIDSitters to run errands and provide services for the city's health care workers during the pandemic.
"A lot of our clinical rotations were put on pause during this time,” says NYC COVIDSitters Founder Gunjan Desai. “And the people I was talking to, the students that I was talking to, none of us really wanted to be home. We wanted to do something to help out.”
Desai, a third year medical student at Ross University in Florida, gathered some classmates and founded NYC COVIDSitters in late March. They recruited med students from other schools and advertised free services for busy healthcare heroes battling the coronavirus — everything from pet sitting to grocery shopping to childcare. Touro College med student Nissah Vilceus signed up to offer tutoring.
“I think it just stems from me wanting to be in medicine and wanting to ultimately serve people in general,” said Vilceus.
Vilceus tutors seven-yea-old Aaron online for several hours a week so his mother, who's a pediatrician, can work without worrying whether her son is keeping up with his schoolwork.
"She's been like a godsend to me,” said Divina Lopez. “Because right now it's even challenging to get a baby sitter or any kind of child care. So having someone reinforce his schoolwork for me was a real blessing because at the end of the day I'm so exhausted."
NYC COVIDSitters has attracted nearly 70 volunteers to help about 30 families. Both fill out questionnaires and a match is made.
LIU pre-med student Mehak Amjed offers childcare for service.
"The cool thing about NYC COVIDSitters is they pair you up with doctors who live in your district or your borough,” said Amjed. “So I live in Astoria, Queens and got paired up with a family that lives in Forest Hills."
These volunteers said it's rewarding to support a profession they are preparing to join.
"By helping their family we thought, ‘OK, we're doing our part in helping our fellow physicians,’” said Volunteer Coordinator Aratanxa Dave.
NYC COVIDSitters plans to expand its free services to include online summer camp activities.
For more information go to nyccovidsitters.org.