Laurent Duvernay-Tardif is putting his doctorate in medicine to good use.
The 29-year-old athlete, who already made history as the first medical school graduate to play in the NFL, helped the Kansas City Chiefs win Super Bowl LIV less than three months ago. Now, he's working with other healthcare professionals to help fight the coronavirus.
In a first-person piece written for Sports Illustrated, Duvernay-Tardif reveals he is working at a long-term care facility near Montreal, Quebec, the place he originally called home. He further explains that while he holds a doctorate in medicine, he doesn't have a speciality yet, and hasn't done the residency portion of the program.
"Soon into the crisis I started to ask how I could help. I reached out to the health ministry and public health authorities, but found out that I fell into a gray area where they didn’t know what to do with me, because I don’t have a license to practice -- yet," recalls Duvernay-Tardif, who studied at McGill University. "In the interim, officials briefed me on an almost daily basis, and I used my platform and credentials to relay their messages."
"A few [weeks] ago, health ministry officials started a campaign to recruit healthcare professionals, especially students in medicine and nursing. It's now possible for me to go back and help," he continues. "I had already wanted to, but when it’s real, it hits you, the gravity involved. Now, the discussion shifts from I want to go back to how am I going to go back? I discussed with my girlfriend whether we will continue to sleep in the same bed or live in the same apartment. These conversations made me realize even more the sacrifices that people in health care, on the front line, are making."
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Yes, it’s me in this picture but this is not about me. This is about all the people who have been on the frontlines since day one of this pandemic. Now more than ever we need to work as a team and help where the help is needed. We all must come together and do what is best for society, even if that means stepping out of our comfort zone and learning new things. Thank you to the community of health care workers who welcomed me with open arms and trained me at the Long Term Care Home, some even coming out of retirement to give a helping hand. Thank you Elisa for the PPE training. Thank you Hélène for the elderly mobilisation training. Thank you Jean-Philippe for your help during my first shift as an orderly. Thank you Guylaine for the crash course on how to administer medication to patients. I accepted this opportunity with a lot of pride and humility. I will contribute to the best of my abilities to help: help put a smile on a patient’s face, help give a day off to nurses and orderlies who have been working countless hours since this pandemic started. We can all do our part and it's touching to see so many people of different professional backgrounds coming together to do what they can. We have to keep working as a team and we will get through this. Ça va bien aller 🌈
Because Duvernay-Tardif is still under contract with the Chiefs, he had to check in with them first to make sure it was OK to help out. He says they were "amazing" and "proud" to support him, and that he was back in the hospital shortly after that.
"First, I registered for a crash course, where I reviewed the basics of how to put a surgical gown on and learn all the steps for sanitizing, because that stuff is more important than ever, to protect not only yourself but your patients," he explains. "My first day back in the hospital was April 24. I felt nervous the night before, but a good nervous, like before a game."
"My shift started at 7:30 a.m. I found out that I would be working for now in more of a nursing role, helping relieve the workers who have already been in place," he adds. "There’s so much that needs to happen just to visit with every patient -- masks donned and hands washed and equipment like gloves and visors tugged on and off and thrown away. I handled a medication cart, making sure to administer the right dosage and in the proper way. Honestly, I was drained after -- and looking forward to going back."
Duvernay-Tardif admits that it's still "wild" to think how different life was just a few months ago, when he was playing in the biggest game in sports.
"I was reminded of that even at the facility, when one of the people training me turned and said, 'You’re the football player, right?' When I answered yes, he said, 'Bro, you just won the Super Bowl.' Indeed, I told him, and now I just want to help," he says. "Playing in the Super Bowl vs. heading back to the medical system during a pandemic is totally different. Back in February, I knew that 100 million-plus people were going to be watching, and I wanted to win. When you’re going in to help it’s more about your duty as a doctor and a citizen. It’s not the time to be the hero and be impulsive. You’ve gotta do it the right way."
What life and the economy will be like post-pandemic seems to be a question on everyone's mind these days, including Duvernay-Tardif's. He says it will be interesting to see what will happen to football come September (and sports in general), adding that he is currently working closely with experts to determine safety measures for the NFL's return.
"I currently serve on the NFLPA's task force ... we will look at how teams will train, how they will travel and how the games will take place and, since this is the NFL, a league with a lot of resources, it seems like every option is on the table. For now, we’re just getting started," he explains. "It's too soon to say when sports might come back. Or what that might look like. What I can say is, if we’re not playing in September, knowing all the implications of what sports means for a nation and the money behind this huge industry, there are going to be bigger issues than not playing football."
Read Duvernay-Tardif's full story here, and watch the video below for more information on COVID-19.
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