Walker alum Rachel (Rae) Lipson (’91) Gordon is an attending neonatologist at Wellstar Kennestone and Wellstar Cobb. In addition to working her regular shifts, she is spending hours helping create processes and protocols to keep new mothers and their babies safe from COVID-19.
Like many on the frontlines, her work is keeping her from her family.
Neonatology is a unique specialty. There isn’t a long list of doctors or nurses who do what these skilled professionals do. If Rae or one of her other team members were to become symptomatic and further quarantined, it would be a terrific burden on those who remain in the NICU and could compromise the care that can be provided for newborns in crisis.
Likewise, Rae protects her family — not knowing if she is bringing something dangerous into their home every day. So, she and those in her family, are practicing the strictest measures of protection — for themselves and others.
“I’m isolated when I’m home. I can’t interact with them and they can’t interact with me,” she said. Honestly, I haven’t really seen my child in weeks.”
Asked what people can do for her and other healthcare workers, Lipson said: “I feel valued. Your doctors and nurses feel valued. We don’t need applause. Or doughnuts. We need people to stay home.”
Lipson’s interest in science was piqued during her time at Walker. She went to Brown University for her undergraduate degree and worked with Americorp Vista, a non-profit coordinating healthcare for the uninsured in rural Western Maryland, for a year before going to medical school at McGill University.
She decided to specialize in neonatology because “It‘s purely physiologic. Babies don’t bring other issues with them — their bodies are not yet influenced by their culture or by the powerful thought processes of the brain. Whatever is going on with them is generally able to be explained by a physicalprocess. Plus, they’re babies. They’re pretty cute.”
Lipson said she believes the COVID-19 virus will be around long-term. She describes waves of infection which she predicts will likely bounce back and forth between the coasts until there is an available vaccine.
“This isn’t going away,” she said.
When asked what the community can do to help, she said: “The small choices we make every day… have huge implications as to how far and how fast this virus spreads. That could mean walking in your backyard as opposed to crowded trails. It could mean making one trip to Costco every couple of weeks instead of a trip to the grocery twice a week.
“The more people can really focus on making smart choices, cutting down those social choices – it’s going to matter in terms of lives lost. It just is.”
She quickly added: “If you’re lucky enough to still be earning your full income, find some way to help those who aren’t — be they restaurant employees, small family businesses, maybe your childcare provider. Anyone who is at risk for financial loss. Because it’s going to be a long haul.”