June 9, 2021
Katie Ganser, PA-S, Looks Hard For Silver Linings
February 9, 2021
By Katie Ganser, PA-S
I consider myself a pretty resilient person and reasonably well-suited to pandemic life. I’ve competed as a college athlete, lived abroad, and worked from home. I’m used to spending hours upon hours with a finite group of people. I’m used to being physically far away from my family and friends. I’m used to staring at screens all day from the couch. But COVID-19 is different and it is crushing.
Preparation for remote life
During college, while all our friends and classmates were on winter break, my basketball teammates and I would still be on campus for two-a-day practices and weightlifting. We’d be seeing the same faces day after day, eating the same takeout every night, watching TV and playing basketball, day after day.
After college, I moved to Ireland as a Victory Scholar for Sport Changes Life. While in Dublin, I earned my masters at Trinity College in Business and Management. Shortly after, I started working for Boston Strategic Partners, a healthcare consulting firm based in Boston. The job was particularly attractive to me: The staff all worked remotely. Young and excited to continue to live in Ireland, play basketball, and coach, I energetically started my career. And for four years, I worked long hours from the couch, learned the ins and outs of the pharmaceutical and biotech industries, studied various diseases, and worked with an incredibly diverse group of people – all from my laptop. I was able to develop great relationships with my coworkers, even though we met and spent time together almost exclusively virtually. I took advantage of the flexibility remote work offered – I traveled the world and got comfortable working just about anywhere. I did stints in an accountant’s apartment in the Swiss Alps, my cousin’s home in the Netherlands, and a tiny apartment in the heart of Lisbon across from a bakery.
How COVID-19 is different
I considered some of these periods quite isolating at the time – the same faces on my basketball team, hours by myself in my apartment, an ocean away from family and close friends. Now, though, with COVID-19, I recognize there was ample room for personal connection. In college, there were no face masks, hugs were encouraged, and we would see family at every home game or when we snuck away for a home-cooked meal. While living abroad and working remotely, there were constantly new people to exchange stories with, new cities to explore, new mountains to climb, and new food to eat. So, while often physically alone, I felt a strong sense of connection. But COVID-19 has been different. We’ve had to spend months without seeing friends, going to restaurants, or having any sense of normalcy. It’s been exhausting. We’re all fatigued. At least I know I am.
Distant relationships and lack of connection are at the core of my current “funk.” I’m grateful to share a beautiful home in the foothills with my partner Jim and our two adorable dogs, Bear and Dee. We didn’t travel home for Christmas this year; Jim is a PA in an emergency department in Denver and with the COVID-19 numbers, there was no way for us to safely quarantine and travel to family. This was my first Christmas in 30 years away from home – my family has overcome three college basketball schedules and living in Ireland, Wisconsin, and now Colorado to be together for Christmas. 2020 finally broke our streak.
Small silver linings
And while this has been emotionally challenging and devastating for families directly and indirectly impacted by this virus, I know we can all identify some silver linings. I am grateful for a roof over my head, never wanting for food, not worrying about losing my job, for a partner to go through this with, for dogs who keep me smiling, the Rocky Mountains at my doorstep, doing virtual yoga over Facetime with my family, rekindling my love and appreciation for creating art, and becoming a plant mom. We skied to cut down our first Christmas tree and celebrated Christmas together for the first time (and with our families over Zoom!). I am grateful to be in rotations and have the opportunity to sit mask-to-mask with patients as they go through some of the most challenging times of their lives. I am grateful for my Student Board of Directors family – past and present – who continue to be my inspiration to keep pushing for more.
I miss you all. I miss meetings and conferences. I miss the conversations we have and the enthusiasm that only being together brings. We are PA students, PAs, clinicians, and humans. This is difficult, but we will be together again. In the meantime, I appreciate how hard each one of you is working to push through. Please find time to have grace for yourself and others. We will emerge more compassionate, as better healers, better prepared to practice medicine in this complex world.
Katie Ganser is the 2020-2021 Student Academy President. She is a third-year PA student at the University of Colorado. Ganser lives in Colorado with her partner, Jim, and their dogs Bear and Dee. When not studying medicine (or in the midst of a global pandemic), advocating for Black Lives and diversity, equity and inclusion in medicine, or volunteering in the local community, she spends her time hiking, trail running, mountain biking, camping in a teardrop trailer, and traveling the world – most often to see her family outside of Boston! You can reach Ganser at [email protected].