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Vassar on the Front Lines

Voices from a Pandemic

Michael Del Rosario ’92

Dr. Michael Del Rosario is a Surgeon and Director of the Division of Colon & Rectal Surgery at AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center, specializing in Colon & Rectal Surgery and General, Advanced Laparoscopic and Robotic Surgery. In 2003, he was the first surgeon in South Jersey to perform laparoscopic colon resection, and then in 2011, he was the first surgeon in South Jersey to perform robotic colon resection with the daVinci robotic system. He is an instructor for Advanced Trauma and Life Support. On September 11, 2001, he was Chief on site at Jersey City Medical Center where he directly cared for trauma victims of the World Trade Center attack.

Submitted June 18, 2020

Realizations

Around the middle of March, we were told that all elective surgeries, meaning procedures that were not emergencies, urgent or life-threatening, were to be postponed until further notice. On the particular day, I had to tell my patient, who was already in the OR waiting area, that for her safety and that of the staff, we are canceling the surgery.

Non-COVID Patients

The only way I could describe the experience of the past several months was, that aside from elective procedures, it was work as usual with a heightened sense of caution and sense of urgency. With respect to what I do, throughout the quarantine I continued to operate on patients with colon cancer or bad intestinal infections, as well as the life-threatening emergencies that came in through the ER while on call because these people could just not wait. Despite the risks to myself and those close to me, patients needed to be treated.

Memories

Washing hands more frequently, wearing more protective gear, and then coming home and going straight to change out of scrubs and shower before giving my two young kids a hug.

“On the particular day, I had to tell my patient, who was already in the OR waiting area, that for her safety and that of the staff, we are canceling the surgery.”

Decisions

(The most challenging thing was) Having to decide who needed surgery now and who could wait.

Inspirations

Those patients I operated on throughout this quarantine that had their cancer removed and thanked me for being there for them every single day they were in the hospital.

Changes

Hopefully people will be more considerate and cognizant of others around them and how simple personal changes in behavior (e.g., hand washing and covering your mouth when sneezing), REALLY SIMPLE maneuvers, may make a difference. I also hope that people learn not to fear the unknown, “novel” situations, and to use fact and truth to come to their own conclusions about situations instead of depending on social media and regurgitated misinformation. As far as my work, it’s another day at work no matter what the situation. Patients must be cared for.

“Medicine is an art.”

I majored in chemistry at Vassar but took as many liberal arts classes as I could. Now I look for the truth in science and apply that with compassion to care for my patients because medicine is an art.

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