My name is Tomás Diaz. I am an emergency medicine physician in San Francisco. Um, I was born in New York city, son of immigrants. My mother's from Cuba. My father is from the Dominican Republic.
I hate my birthday. And initially my hate for my birthday was related to it falling on St. Patrick's Day. And everyone has always gotten me green things, green cake, green bagels, green beer. Um, and I don't mind the color green, but I hate green on my birthday. Um, and now I have a new reason to hate my birthday. It was the first day of shelter in place and sort of the signal of when this all started.
Being here on the West coast, being far from my family who is on the East coast while the New York area was, you know, the epicenter globally of COVID cases, was certainly stressful, anxiety inducing. I actually was part of a group of UCSFs physicians who volunteered to go over and work in New York hospitals.
When I first told my family that I was going to be coming to New York to work, my mom was, Oh, you know, we'll get a room ready for you and blah, blah, blah. And I was like, no, I'm not staying with you. That is the exact opposite reason why I'm coming. I'm coming to care for patients and to sort of isolate myself for the, for the benefit of everyone else.
Um, that being said, they visited me weekly and they would - I was staying at a hotel that they had organized for me and I would come stand on the curb and my parents would drive up with my grandma and they would remain in the car and we would talk for a bit from the distance, wearing masks. Um, and they would always bring me food and put it in the trunk. And I would walk around to the trunk and grab the food and close the trunk. That way I didn't have to physically interact with them or, or be too close.
I can distinctly remember watching an interview, I believe it was on CNN, with Kizzmekia Corbett, who is a scientist at the NIH who was in part developing the technology that the Modern vaccine has utilized and, um, she's a black woman. And I just remember being really proud in that moment as a black man. I got the vaccine, I was the fourth person at UCSF, so top five, and you know, I have one cousin who had been asking me a ton of questions. She wasn't saying either way Yay or Nay about whether she would get the vaccine. Um, and I posted on Instagram that I had gotten the vaccine and she commented that she couldn't wait to get hers and that's the first time that she had sort of explicitly said that she was going to get the vaccine.
I miss seeing the lower half of people's faces. And you know, it sounds kind of silly, but I think I'm somebody who's pretty expressive with my face, usually my eyes, but, um, just smiling at a kid on the street or, you know, frowning or biting your lip, any of those things convey a lot and, um, I feel like I've missed that quite a bit I think particularly in my professional career. And the way that we convey emotion or convey empathy that has been taken away from us in terms of our facial expressions, our ability to touch folks, skin to skin, that is no longer a part of my job and that makes things difficult.
2020 has been a big year for lots of reasons. Obviously COVID and then I think the social unrest related to the murder of George Floyd and lots of people have been thinking about and talking about racial injustice for a long time, but for lots of folks, this is sort of a first time that it's being brought to their consciousness or at least the forefront of their consciousness.
A lot of people keep talking about wanting to go back to the way things were. And I don't want to go back to the way things were. I want to go to a better version of the way things were. It's hard to even imagine what it would look like. And honestly, they're folks who have been thinking this about this much longer than I have maybe even been alive.
But I know what I don't want and I don't want what we had before.