Marina Haque is expected to graduate this year from the University of Michigan. She’s also looking to be a part of the frontline fighting against Coronavirus in the United States of America.
Haque is a 4th year student in Medicine, Health Management & Policy at Michigan, and has for the past three weeks spent a huge amount of time away from her studies, focussing on rallying fellow students around fighting Coronavirus.
On March 17th, she started a Twitter thread asking for help from fellow medical students around the world to network and get involved with the fight against COVID-19.
Students in the US &around the?talking about how to help w/ #CoronavirusOutbreak, let’s all follow each other so we can better brainstorm & communicate!— Marina (@Marina__Haque) March 17, 2020
1. Intro yourself
2. State how you’re helping (if active)/want to help
3. Follow everyone & RT
4. Use #Students_Against_COVID
Student Problems spoke to her about how the hashtag #Students_Against_COVID came about, and what her and her team are set to do about the virus.
“Before the hashtag came around, I’d Initially I put up a tweet asking around about what other students people were doing around the country to help. I noticed a lot of students were spearheading innovative means of helping out during this crisis across the globe, which motivated me to start the hashtag.”
That tweet quickly turned into a hashtag, which turned into a group, which now has various teams around the world, connected by social media and WhatsApp.
They even have a motto, based off of a Greek idiom mentioned by one of their team over in European: you need to make the water turbulent when you want a change.
“I got so many responses it was hard to keep up,” Marina explained.
“So I thought let’s make a hashtag. People will have a centralised place to plan. One of the most amazing things is we’ve been already able to mobilise people around the world who are activists in their own communities. We’ve helped mobilise around the world effectively.”
It has so far brought together nearly a hundred students and allies to volunteer their skills across the world, including from Europe.
“There’s a lot people very lonely right now, looking to connect with others. A lot of my peers are working on creating health initiatives online.”
“Globally, these problems are affecting us. There’s been a lot of different responses; I’ve noticed a lot of community organisation in places like New York, Minnesota, Texas, but we needed a common platform to come together.”
1/ I’m my department’s disaster preparedness officer. Have had a hectic few days with #COVID19 planning, but the following thought occurred to me – Why you want an anesthesiologist or anesthesia provider on your disaster preparedness team: pic.twitter.com/nyRpN59aW2— Meghan Lane-Fall, MD, MSHP, FCCM (@mlanefall) March 13, 2020
For Haque, healthcare is a family affair – and helping out on the frontlines could mean saving a relatives life.
“I have family members and peers who are doctors. I know of doctors who have died already,” she tells us.
“I got a notification this morning about another physician who has passed away. It’s a time where everyone needs to come together.”
She tells people not to underestimate the usefulness of medical students:
“We’re students, but we’ve also served in provider roles. We have an understanding of what is going on. Many of us are not on the front line currently, but we need to do to do the best we can to serve.”
COVID-19 is a ruthless virus, but it does discriminate. It is much more likely to cause serious affects on older people – including older doctors.
“Older adults, people who are imuno-compromised, these are some of the categories of individuals who are at higher risk of becoming critically ill due to COVID. Many of our existing providers are older adults and have comorbidities putting them at higher risk of falling ill, including several of my mentors at Michgian Medicine who are currently treating patients now.”
“When we talk about mobilisation, students want to to do the most they can. There are students like me who would much rather it be them putting themselves at risk than the people around us if there are alternative and safer options for everyone involved.”
And if they can’t get onto the frontlines of hospital support, they’re petitioning and moving to gather supplies.
“There’s an incredible initiative from students at Georgetown University, who are calling on labs to help donate supplies. A lot of our hospitals are running out of supplies. Many hospitals in Metro Detroit, where I am based, are similarly running out of protective equipment.”
“We want to help bring together these people who are taking lead in their own communities, to especially work with and on behalf of medical providers, and help relay this information to the general public.”
Above all, a key part of combatting the social affects of the virus is combating myths. Haque tells us:
“We want people to listen to scientists and doctors, especially now, not the myths. A lot of what’s led to the crisis today is people not listening to scientists. You’re still having folks having people pointing the fingers at doctors unfairly, and saying this is your fault,’ and hurting their ability to continue serving the best they can.”
As for why she chose to start the movement now?
“We do not want to look back and wonder if there is anything more we could have done. Whenever this crisis dies down, I don’t want to learn that family members or mentors passed away due to this, and regret not doing more when I had the chance.”
Featured image credit: Marina Haque / University of Michigan