Coronavirus

How This Penn Physician Cares for Her Health While Treating COVID-19 Patients

When she's not tending to patients at Pennsylvania Hospital, Serena Dasani decompresses with virtual workouts and cooking.


Serena Dasani is a resident physician at Pennsylvania Hospital, treating COVID-19 patients. / Photograph courtesy of Serena Dasani.

Welcome to Sweat Diaries, Be Well Philly’s look at the time, energy, and money people invest in pursuit of a healthy lifestyle in Philly. For each Sweat Diary, we ask one area resident to spend a week tracking everything they eat, all the exercise they get, and the money they spend on both. Want to submit a Sweat Diary? Email lbrzyski@phillymag.com.

Who I am: Serena Dasani (@sere__nity), 28

Where I live: Graduate Hospital

What I do: I recently graduated with my MD/MBA from the University of Pennsylvania and I am now a Penn internal medicine resident. I am one of the residents treating coronavirus patients on our floors at Pennsylvania Hospital. In addition to working in the hospital, I pursue several side ventures which include freelance healthcare consulting projects, medical school application consulting, medical writing for Buoy Health, licensing exam test question writing, and various research projects.

What role healthy living plays in my life: Pursuing healthy eating and exercise enables me to both stay connected with my friends through fitness and maintain balance in my life inside and outside of the hospital. Exercise forces me to press pause on my life and empowers me to reflect and live in the moment.

Health memberships (and what they cost): Before the quarantine, I frequented several boutique fitness studios including Barry’s and SoulCycle. Now that these businesses are closed, my sole fitness expense is my $40 monthly Peloton membership.

Grocery haul for the week:

  • Italian market — $67
  • Fresh Grocer — $35

Monday

Herb grilled chicken prepped by Dasani and her husband. / Photograph by Serena Dasani.

7:30 a.m. — I am woken up by my Dutch Shepherd pup, Mowgli. While I typically wake up at 5 a.m., this week I am working nights. I start my day with a hot cup of coffee, a bowl of raspberries, and some quality time with my husband, Sourav. Given we are working opposite schedules this week, this is our moment to spend time with each other.

8:30 a.m. — I correspond with my co-resident, Lisa Lin, to help finalize our residency program’s medical decision management guidelines for coronavirus. We have created a handbook when treating our patients affected by coronavirus, with input from our colleagues and other experts.

9:30 a.m. — I peek at my investment portfolio when the market opens and remind myself it is the long waiting game we are playing here.

9:40 a.m. — Since we have been in quarantine, my childhood friends and I are staying connected and active by sending each other daily workouts. Today, my friend Erin sent us a firefighter circuit workout: five rounds of 10 burpees, 20 push-ups, 30 air squats, 40 sit-ups, and 50 lunges. It’s been a fun way to hold each other accountable and stay motivated!

10:45 a.m. — I’m starving after that workout, so I crack open my lunch early. Sourav and I meal prep for the week on Sundays and I reap those benefits as I eat herb-marinated chicken, homemade hummus, and blistered shishito peppers. Wash it down with a lemon-flavored San Pellegrino seltzer.

11:15 a.m. — Time to take the queen pup for walk around the neighborhood!

11:45 a.m. — I touch base with Trattoria Carina — one of the local restaurants that has offered to donate lunch for our residency tomorrow — to coordinate delivery logistics. We have been supported by Fuel the Fight and independent donations from several neighborhood eateries. Fuel the Fight is a non-profit organization based in Philadelphia that is fundraising to support local restaurants who can then in turn serve healthcare workers delicious meals.

11:50 a.m. — Time to take a nap in preparation for my first night shift. I always find the first night the hardest to adjust to and try to force myself to catch some Z’s before my 12-hour shift.

4 p.m. — Wake up! I’m ready for an early evening sweat session, so I hop on my Peloton and video chat my friend Tani who is doing the same 30-minute Cody Rigsby pop ride. We exchange virtual high fives and tap-back to Britney Spears. Tani is also a resident physician and we coordinate workouts together.

4:35 p.m. — I scarf down my favorite post-workout snack, a banana topped with almond butter, then hop in the shower.

5 p.m. — For an early dinner, I have avocado toast and a mango; then, I prep my mom’s dal recipe in my Instant Pot. Her recipe includes yellow lentils, tons of spices, peanuts, and honey. I pack it up to take with me to work.

5:45 p.m. — I sign into our residency program’s virtual town hall on Zoom, a biweekly meeting that helps us stay up-to-date on the new coronavirus guidelines, and is an open forum for resident questions with our program’s leaders.

6:40 p.m. — Slog to work on my bike! My bike ride is only 15 minutes, so I am fortunately not that sweaty when I arrive at Pennsylvania Hospital. My temperature is checked and I answer a brief set of questions to ensure I am asymptomatic prior to going up to the floors.

7 p.m. — I receive sign out from my colleagues, which includes a brief history of each patient, anticipatory guidance about potential challenges that may arise during the night, and follow-up tasks for continuity of care. For coronavirus patients, we make sure to note if the patient is requiring oxygen and if so, how much. We also go through their medications, lab work, and notes to ensure safe care throughout the night. I sign over for my patients.

8 p.m. — Coffee and chocolate break! I grab an espresso from the cafeteria right before it closes ($3.67) and scarf down a piece of chocolate bark that was donated to our residency from JOJO’s Chocolate.

10 p.m. — Our patients have been stabilized; we continue to monitor them and finalize tasks.

Daily total: $3.67

Tuesday

Dasani with resident colleagues prior to the start of their shift. / Photograph by Serena Dasani.

2 a.m. — I meet up with my co-residents who are working in the ICU. It is exactly like Grey’s Anatomy except instead of revealing we are each other’s surprise biological siblings, we discuss our caseload for the night.

6:45 a.m. — My shift is over, and I sign out overnight events to our day residents. I bike home and am greeted with a burrata honey toast for breakfast from Sourav and a sloppy kiss from Mowgli. We catch up and then I crawl into bed.

2:30 p.m. — I wake up and make myself a honey lemon tea. I warm up some leftover okra and potato stew as a quick bite for lunch. When we prepared this over the weekend, we pan-fried the okra and potatoes in generous amounts of cumin, garam masala, turmeric, and chili powder. I write a few thank you cards to our wedding guests (we were married in February) and drop them off in the mailbox.

3:30 p.m. — E-mail time. When I am not at the hospital, I pursue a few different ventures, one of which involves helping individuals with the medical school application process. I check in with my six current students via email and I set up calls for later this week.

4 p.m. — I hop on the Peloton for a 10-minute warm-up and a 45-minute Latin themed ride to burn some steam. My legs are extremely tired from the squats and lunges from the firefighter workout yesterday, but fortunately, my friend Tani is video chatting me while doing the same ride. As an extrovert, it has been super important for me to find creative ways to stay social; the Peloton has been an awesome way to feel connected and stay on top of my workouts.

5 p.m. — I take a quick shower and pick up Mowgli from day care. My friend comes over for a contactless puzzle swap. I trade her a 1,000-piece puzzle I finished with Sourav and our roommate for another 1,000-piece puzzle that we can each enjoy during our weekends off in quarantine.

6 p.m. — I arrive at the hospital before my shift to help coordinate another meal donation for our night residents from Café Ynez. My co-residents and I bring up 30 meals to the ICU to share for dinner.

7 p.m. — I receive signout from my colleagues. Today, however, we have more new patients admitted who require continued care overnight. I take detailed notes and jot down their advice.

8:15 p.m. — My co-worker Peter and I put together 50 Easter eggs filled with chocolate and written tasks that we then hide all over the resident workplaces in the hospital. The tasks range from “give someone a compliment” to “do 10 burpees.”

8:30 p.m. — Coffee time. I grab a cup of coffee from the cafeteria to help me stay awake for the next ten hours ($2.25).

11:15 p.m. — I get called to see several patients on the floors. After they are stabilized, I touch base with one of my patient’s family members about her mother’s condition. Many hospitals, including ours, are temporarily implementing a no-visitor policy to limit coronavirus spread. This means that family members have to receive updates over the phone rather than in person, which is challenging and unprecedented.

Daily total: $2.25

Wednesday

Dasani with her dog, Mowgli. / Photograph courtesy of Serena Dasani.

6:45 a.m. — Change of shift comes in no time. I give my co-residents who are working the day shift a brief sign out and hop on my bike to head home. On the way, I make a pit stop at Fitzwater Bagels and grab Sourav and I bagels and cream cheese for breakfast ($7.25).

7:30 a.m. — After eating, showering, and throwing my hospital scrubs into the laundry machine, I pass out.

2:45 p.m. — Mowgli is howling and wakes me up, so I take her on a quick walk. Once we’re back home, I have more of our meal-prepped food: Brussels sprouts, roasted peppers, hummus, and couscous with carrots and peas. I brew a pot of coffee; I am halfway through my week of night shifts and know I will need caffeine to help me stay awake tonight.

3:45 p.m. — I have a quick sweat session on the Peloton. I keep it to 30 minutes and do a low impact, groove-themed ride. It is also my turn to assign the workout of the day for my childhood friends, so I text and do a quick 21-minute AMRAP workout with burpees, squats, lunges, and Russian twists.

5 p.m. — I hop on an hour phone call with a medical school applicant; we work on brainstorming topics for her personal statement.

6 p.m. — I make a quick cashew butter and honey toast before heading to the hospital. Tonight, I’m bringing in individually-packed nut butters to the hospital that my college sorority, Columbia’s Delta Gamma Zeta Theta, donated. They collected donations from various sisters and distributed the money among Columbia DG alumni who are resident physicians during the pandemic. It has been so awesome to see the support healthcare workers are getting from the community right now.

6:45 p.m. — I receive sign out from my co-workers and make note that many patients have several active problems that I will need to watch over.

7:45 p.m. — I have a bit of down time so I chat with my co-residents in the ICU. We grab a coffee at our snack cart together before heading back to the floors ($2.25).

10:15 p.m. — I go back up to the ICU to touch base with the senior residents; I have a few questions about medical management that I want to run by my co-workers. We discuss the new awake proning guidelines for coronavirus patients who require oxygenation support.

Daily total: $9.50

Thursday

Dasani decompresses from night shift with Peloton rides. / Photograph courtesy of Serena Dasani.

5 a.m. — I get called to perform a few procedures on the floor and I scan some of my patients’ lab values prior to getting ready to sign out to the day team.

7:05 a.m. — After sign out, I bike home, shower for the millionth time this week after working nights during COVID-19, and fall asleep immediately.

2:40 p.m. — I wake up and have some leftover Indian food which includes yellow lentil dal, okra, potato curry, and rice.

3:15 p.m. — Time to work on a freelance medical writing assignment for a digital health company. I have been writing for the company since I was a medical student; it is a great way to stay up to date with medical literature, while also earning extra cash as a resident.

4:30 p.m. — I hop on a phone call with a patient home monitoring company. The company rep walks me through the tool they have developed to help triage patients in the home setting, and I provide her with my insights. Freelance consulting opportunities such as this allow me to combine my healthcare and business backgrounds, and it is awesome to apply what I have seen in the hospital on an individual level for a tool aiming to help patients on a population level.

5:30 p.m. — I am cutting it close before my shift, and so I only have time to do a quick 10-minute arm series from my Peloton app.

6:30 p.m. — I bike back to the hospital and get sign out; most of my tasks start after 8:30 p.m., so I use it as an opportunity to share dinner with my co-residents who are also working the night shift. Kanella Grill donated grilled chicken, curried chickpeas, and salad to our residency!

7:45 p.m. — I have a few moments to catch up on my computer and I quickly update the coronavirus house staff handbook that Lisa and I are working on.

10 p.m. — Make a pit stop in the ICU to say hi to my co-workers before tending to and monitoring patients for the night/early morning!

Daily total: $0

Friday

A little reminder for healthcare workers from Baked by Melissa, who provided cupcakes to Pennsylvania Hospital workers. / Photograph by Serena Dasani.

6:45 a.m. — Sign out takes place, and my co-residents send me on my way home.

7:30 a.m. — Home, showered, and in bed.

3 p.m. — I am able to sleep in later than normal because Mowgli is at day care today. I wake up, shower, and go pick her up.

3:30 p.m. — Home and eating a banana with almond butter as a pre-workout snack, plus coffee, of course.

4 p.m. — I hop on my Peloton to do a workout with my friend, Nausheen, who is a physician on the front lines in New York. We decide to take a 45-minute feel good ride and both end up hitting personal records. Woo!

5 p.m. — I have a Zoom date with several of my friends from my gap year in Indonesia, many of whom were able to come to my wedding in India in February. Our video call consists of them sharing choreography from the dances they had performed in India and catching up on what has been going on with everyone the past few weeks.

6 p.m. — My delivery order from Bar Bombon in Rittenhouse Square arrives; I ordered dinner for two to have a quick “date night” with Sourav before my night shift. We have yucca, plantains, guacamole, and two different types of vegan tacos ($65.76).

6:30 p.m. — Time to head over to work.

6:45 p.m. — I receive sign out and settle into the night; we have dinner for the residency catered by The Wharton School, plus cupcakes from Baked by Melissa that I drop off on the floors for the overnight nurses.

11:59 p.m. — It is my last night shift of the week and I am ready for a few days off!

Daily total: $65.76

Weekly totals

Money spent: $183.18
Workouts completed: Seven
Night shifts survived: Five, and I cannot wait to catch up on sleep!

Want to hear more from us? Join Be Well Philly at:
FACEBOOK | INSTAGRAM | NEWSLETTER | TWITTER