The role of doctors is more crucial now than ever as the novel coronavirus claims thousands of lives throughout the globe on a daily basis. In the United States, the virus has run rampant. On Friday, there were over 2,000 COVID-19-related deaths in the U.S. alone. It's also within the nation that Black communities are being hit even more harshly, in part due to preexisting health inequities along racial lines and bogus conspiracy theories

We took this time to talk with a few Black millennial doctors to see what their experiences have been like on the frontlines, to ask how they've been coping with playing such a pivotal role in the crisis and to get some insight as to how other Black millennials can stay of sound mind, body and spirit. 

If they look familiar, you probably saw them when the #Don'tRushChallenge took over the Black medical field.

First, were the ladies.

Naturally, the fellas had to get in on it, too. 

Fly, right? Well, they're also about their business, and their business just so happens to be our well-being. 

Note: the following interviews were edited for brevity.

1. Dr. Krista Marie, 33, Family Medicine Physician in Charlottesville, Virginia

Can you walk us through your experience in your last shift?

My shifts are quite long, ranging from 12-13 hours per shift. I was assigned to work in our designated COVID-19 clinic, and the day started with a team huddle. This is where everyone including myself, nurses, office staff, lab and radiology technicians meet to discuss protocols and any updates with testing equipment in the clinic. This is important as every day new information regarding COVID-19 is rapidly evolving, and it’s crucial for everyone to be on the same page. Once this is over, we begin seeing patients who potentially may have COVID-19. 

I particularly recall a heartfelt moment where I evaluated a patient who was considered high risk for COVID-19. She was an elderly woman who shared with me that her spouse had recently passed. She was alone and had no family nearby. She informed me that she was scared and became tearful. Usually, I have no issues extending a hug to patients and unfortunately could not offer a warm hug to comfort her due to the risk of becoming infected, which was painful for me. She was still extremely thankful for the services we provided and that although busy, I still took the time to listen to her.

How are you tending to yourself in such a chaotic time?

There has never been a better time for self-care than now, especially with all of the stress and uncertainty. At the end of the day, I cannot be the best doctor for my patients if I'm not performing at my physical and mental best. To do this, I try to keep a healthy diet, incorporate physical activity and get regular sleep and rest. I intentionally schedule social media breaks to disconnect and tune in with myself. These moments are used to quiet my mind by simply meditating or practicing yoga. I am a strong believer in prayer, and making time to pray is essential to my self-care regimen.

What advice do you have for Black millennials right now? 

This time can certainly be challenging, however, I can offer a few suggestions to stay healthy and sane. It’s important to focus on different dimensions of our health and well-being during this time, as this can help us feel grounded. Mindset is key, and instead of focusing on what we “can’t do,” try to think about what we can do to survive and even thrive. Staying in touch with family and friends can help with feeling connected. Limiting the news while incorporating stress-management techniques like deep breathing and journaling can help us control stressors. Maintaining healthy eating habits along with movement will help our physical and mental health.

2. Dr. Cedric Rutland, 38, Pulmonary Critical Care Physician in Orange County, California

What’s your role amid the COVID-19 pandemic?

I work in the ICU, and I also work on the floor in pulmonary and I have my clinic as well…The thing about California [is] I just feel a little bit guilty because I feel like I should be in New York or Philadelphia or wherever it’s popping off right now. There’s this feeling of guilt there because I feel like I can do more. 

What are your thoughts on the racial inequities being brought to light amid the pandemic? Do you think this will affect any change? Was this something you anticipated happening? 

In regards to the racial inequality we're seeing during this pandemic, it doesn’t really surprise me. I do believe that African Americans in general are not treated equally. But this inequality is not just due to the healthcare system. I do feel like African American civilians want to see African American physicians, and, understanding that African American physicians represent about 5% of all physicians in this country, it likely is a little bit of a trust issue. I can tell the difference when I walk in the room versus when one of my colleagues walks in the room. I think that the most important thing is to be able to show young children that physicians can look any way.

[Additionally,] what’s difficult sometimes is to play catch-up. A lot of times you have to, and you want to sit down with family members and just educate them and let them know what’s going on with their disease process and this is why this happened and this is why that happened. Sometimes it’s too much information in one sitting, but you understand as an African American that they have not been afforded the opportunity to learn about their illness. You try to fill that impossible gap, and this is tough.

What advice do you have for Black millennials right now? 

Anything that you do in medicine, do not move onto the next concepts until you understand why the current concept is happening. It’s important to build a foundation brick by brick. It’s important not to try to memorize everything and to really try to know and understand where concepts are born. This way you can build on the things on a daily basis and you just know things. 

I would also like to say that one of their best lessons my grandparents ever taught me — and this is coming from two people growing up when racism was prevalent — my grandfather always told me “it’s never because you’re Black.” The reason he told me this was because he wanted me to not think about this because he felt that if I thought that it wouldn’t allow me to continue to propel forward. He felt that that thought is strong enough to leave me standing in my tracks. He wanted me to continue to excel. So I do think it’s important to teach that even though we all understand that racism still exists.

3. Dr. Eva Beaulieu, 37, Internal Medicine Hospitalist in Atlanta, Georgia

What’s been the most challenging part of this? 

Making difficult decisions in a fast-moving context. The virus tends to affect people severely, and the patients become ill fast. This is a new virus that we have never dealt with before, and we still have a lot to learn. We all have seen death and we have been conditioned to deal with difficult situations daily, but this is different because of the scope of the disease.  

What’s been the most rewarding?

My inspiration is my patients. It’s knowing that I am wanted, expected and needed. But the most rewarding is knowing that I am making a difference in the lives of many, regardless of the circumstances.

How are you tending to yourself in such a chaotic time?

As we treat the coronavirus, healthcare professionals have been reporting high rates of anxiety and depression. We fear getting infected with the virus and also exposing our loved ones. 

How I tend to myself? I try to eat a well-balanced meal, exercise regularly and get plenty of sleep when I can. I also try to limit the amount of time I watch the news because I find that it overwhelms me at times. 

What advice do you have for Black millennials right now? 

For many people, there is a lot to be stressed about during the pandemic. Many are losing their jobs and their family members to the disease. The stock market volatility is causing panics. Millennials are at high risk of depression, anxiety and other mental health issues. My advice would be to use this time to reflect on what matters. Focus on the positive. Try to stay grateful. Go outside for a walk. Start exercising at home. Make deeper connections with the people in your life. Turn off the news sometimes. It’s okay to put down the phone and stay away from social media for a few hours. Learn to meditate. 

And of course seek professional help. There are now many therapists using tele-health-based platforms. So even with the social distancing or shelter-in place guidelines, help is available. 

What’s something that has made you grateful for Black creatives in a time like this? 

I just love seeing how we as a people get together to come up with fun and creative ways to lighten up the mood during the pandemic. There has been so many fun challenges created on the internet where you see people getting “living room ready” and showing off their looks! Amid the COVID-19 crisis, we have become more creative and have come up with incredibly imaginative ways to find connections even when we’re not in the same physical space together.

4. Dr. Jason Campbell, 31, Anesthesia Resident Physician in Portland, Oregon

What are your thoughts on the racial inequities being brought to light amid the pandemic? Do you think this will affect any change? Was this something you anticipated happening?

Health disparities and gaps in treatment based on race or socioeconomic status are, unfortunately, not new. It usually takes some great circumstance to bring these inequalities to light for the greater public but for many within medicine we see this almost daily and know this to be true often. I am concerned about the staggering numbers of minorities being affected by this disease process. I [hope] that this does bring about change moving forward but the momentum must continue many years down the road when COVID-19 is a thing of the past. Because health inequality will only be a thing of the past if we give it a great amount of attention. We need the resources, scientists and clinicians who look like us and those who want to combat this!

What advice would you give to Black millennials right now?

Keep your head up and your spirits up. We have been through hell before and we will survive this. The only way out is through! Use this time to discover something new about yourself, some hidden power, that you can release as soon as we return to normal. Because understand there is going to be a new normal and that new normal should include you desiring to be and become anything you want—if it didn’t before.

The most rewarding?

Being in medicine is so rewarding. I come from a family where my mom was the first Ph.D. Black epidemiologist in the country. I didn’t come from a place where, you know, you step up when you need to step up, but you have to step up when there’s not anyone to step up for you. So whatever comes forward, I’m happy to do my job and very blessed and very privileged to be a physician. Every road that I take I always know [God] is putting me there for a reason. I always use that and think about that when hardship or challenge comes. 

What's something that has made you grateful for Black creatives right now? 

The Daily Show. Trevor Noah, man. He’s a relief for Trump, he’s a relief for everything. 

5. Dr. Lauren Powell, 34, Family Medicine Physician in Atlanta, Georgia

How are you tending to yourself in such a chaotic time?

Just constantly reminding myself that if I’m not well, it’s going to be hard for me to take care of people. Every day I’m just trying to keep myself healthy because that’s the only way that I can help people is if I’m healthy. 

Have stories, anecdotes or people furthered your faith in humanity? 

So many. I’ve seen the medical students coming together providing daycare for physicians’ kids because they have to be here but their kids are out of school. I thought that was beautiful. Like honestly, they’re more than qualified to be a babysitter so to be willing to do that, I think that’s really nice. 

I think people just being willing to do whatever needs to be done, regardless of what your qualifications are. At the end of day, we’re in this together so [it’s] whatever I can do for you. I love that. 

What advice do you have for Black millennials right now? 

So much. I think Black millennials are so creative. Obviously, I’m a millennial and I’m from the mindset of smarter not harder, which is different than the older docs. That’s not what they grew up on. They grew up on work hard, work long and that’s what you do and that’s how you achieve a goal. But I’m from a very different mindset. How can we utilize technology, how can we consolidate things…I would just encourage millennials to keep that spirit about them. …Continue to be innovative, continue to be creative.

Y'all heard what the doctors ordered.