Dr. Sarah Cameron sits with her son, Theo, attached to her breast as she readies herself to be interviewed. Cameron is accustomed to balancing work and caring for a child, as she served on the front lines of COVID-19 when her oldest son, Owen, was just a year old. Cameron works as a hospitalist at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. She was present when the hospital’s biocontainment unit received its first COVID case, and in her words, “all hell broke loose.”
In the winter months leading up to the pandemic, Cameron had made huge strides in both her personal and professional life. She and her husband, Josh, were celebrating their only child’s first birthday. The two of them had also recently graduated from their residencies together, Sarah’s being in internal medicine and Josh’s being in surgery.
“It was tough,” she said, “But it was great.”
Together, the two were navigating the adventure of being first-time parents while working in the medical field.
Cameron had just begun her career as a hospitalist, which is a type of physician that specializes in caring for patients during the duration of their hospital stay.
“Basically, I care for patients in the hospital only. I evaluate patients for the need for hospitalization, care for them throughout their hospitalization, diagnosing and treating their diseases, and then discharge them.” she said.
When asked what inspired her to become a hospitalist, Cameron mentioned her grandfather. She said that his support and success heavily influenced her decision to attend medical school, but that she had made that decision at a young age. Cameron said that she admired her grandfather so deeply, that following in his footsteps was never a question of if, but when.
“He was the only doctor in the family,” she said, “But he was so great at what he did. He was someone that everyone in our town knew and liked.”
Just a few months before receiving her acceptance letter to the University of Oklahoma Medical School, Cameron’s grandfather passed away. He had been struggling with dementia for some time, but Cameron had still been holding onto the hope that he would be present when she received her admission letter. He had attended OU as well, and Cameron knew how proud he would be knowing she would also be going there.
Despite the tragedy, Cameron was eager to attend OU Medical School. While there, she met her husband Josh. Together, the two moved to Omaha to complete their residencies at UNMC.
Cameron had graduated from her residency just seven months before the first COVID patient was admitted into UNMC. She said that in most ways, being so new to her career was an advantage when it came to the pandemic. Everything suddenly changed due to COVID, but to her, everything was new anyway.
“That’s a big reason that I volunteered to be on the COVID unit so much.” she said. “Hospitalists were very much on the front line of COVID. in the initial wave, when we didn’t entirely know what we were doing with COVID, it added this constant uncertainty. But for someone as new as I was, uncertainty was expected.”
Two years later, Sarah still works as a hospitalist at UNMC while doubling as an assistant professor. Cameron works closely with students and residents to ensure their success. She is responsible for introducing students and residents to the floor as they make the transition from the academic portion of their learning to the clinical side.
Cameron still works on the COVID unit today, but said that it looks very different from when the pandemic first struck.
“We’re now fighting the misinformation, COVID denial, vaccine denial, COVID treatment refusal. The job has gotten a lot more dangerous,” she said, “ I have never been yelled at and cussed at before COVID like I am now, and it’s always because I asked about COVID vaccine status or recommended COVID vaccine or have a patient I’m recommending treatment for that they disagree with.”
While doctors now have a better grasp on COVID and are much more knowledgeable about the disease, the political climate, particularly in Nebraska, has exacerbated the difficulty of her profession. Cameron puts on a fearless face, though, as she prepares herself to work in the hospital every day.
When asked how she manages her hectic lifestyle, Cameron said that the way her work schedule is set relieves some pressure.
“It’s a lot of work for the 7 days I’m on service, but then I’m off for 7 days and get to do whatever I want. I love that freedom.” she said.
The freedom allows her to be present for the raising of her children, without sacrificing any of the aspects of her career.
“I really enjoy working at UNMC,” said Cameron, “I like having a week at a time that I’m able to spend with my husband and kids.”
This upcoming September, the Cameron’s will be making a move to San Antonio, Texas. Sarah’s husband has been relocated as a doctor for the Air Force to a base located there. Unsure of what the future holds, Cameron looks forward to the opportunities that a new hospital and home will bring.
“We’re sad to be leaving, we’ve made a good life here, but I’m excited for the newness of it all.” she said.