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Vassar on the Front Lines

Voices from a Pandemic

Kristina Kramer ’91

Dr. Kristina Kramer is board-certified in Pulmonary Diseases and Critical Care Medicine. Currently, she is the Medical Director of the Intensive Critical Care Units of John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek, CA. She majored in biochemistry at Vassar before completing her M.D.at the Medical College of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia in 1996. In 2002, she relocated from the northeast to California and joined Respiratory Medical Group.


With front-line workers becoming the first to receive the new COVID vaccine — even as virus infections are reaching unprecedented levels nationwide — Seiji Hayashi ’91, a Vassar on the Front Lines contributor himself, sat down with his classmate Kristina Krama ’91 to talk about how Intensivists are holding up and what we can all do to help stop the spread.

Submitted December 14, 2020

Watch Kristina Kramer

The Role of a Pulmonary Critical Care Specialist

A Warning from Italy

“When I read this account from Italy, it really sent chills down my spine. As an intensivist, we’re ready for anything. We’re ready for the worst that can come, but what this doctor was describing was different than anything that I’d experienced in my career … It was when I saw that account that I knew this was something really on a grander scale.”

The Winter Surge

“People are fatigued at this point in the pandemic. They’re fatigued just keeping a mask on their face. They’re fatigued because they haven’t seen their family members the way they normally would … I think the combination of that with the colder weather is a recipe for disaster.”

The Importance of Vaccination

“We’re definitely not out of the woods yet. We need to get a core number of people vaccinated in order for us to feel safe, and that’s 70 or 75 percent of the population. I think what is important is for us as health care providers to help people understand the importance of the vaccine, the safety of the vaccine.”

We Need More Helpers

“What has been highlighted for me in this entire period of months is there are helpers and there are people who are not helpful. I’ll remember that for the rest of my life … I think if we were able to all come together in a way that is more centered on public health on a larger scale, I think we’d be in a much better position.”

The Most Inspiring Moment

“I’ve never seen anything like this. Within two or three days time he (the Director of Anesthesiology) and I came up with an escalation plan that relied on our anesthesiologists to come and be proceduralists for us and to have them work in teams with us … Our Chief Medical Officer asked me at a meeting, ‘What’s the physician ramp-up plan?’ I was able to present it to him right then and there with great detail, and you know what? He actually cried.”

Life After the Pandemic

“Those of us who take care of patients in critical care, we have a bond. I think this series of events has bonded us even more. I think we have an appreciation for each other and our teams that have made us stronger.”

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