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Arghavan Salles

Fitness challenge, meal donations and more: Stanford Medicine during social distancing

Health care workers are supporting one another during the COVID-19 outbreak through yoga challenges, virtual happy hours and humor.

As schools across the country began closing to curb the spread of the coronavirus, Arghavan Salles, MD, PhD, recorded a video of herself reaching her leg over her shoulder and across the floor in a split.

"I can't help you with what to do with your kids while school's out," Salles, a surgeon, writer and a scholar-in-residence with Stanford Medicine's educational programs, wrote on Twitter, continuing:

Within days, that post had blossomed into free weekly yoga classes on Zoom, daily videos on Twitter and Instagram, and the hashtags #SocialDistancingYogaChallenge and #SocialDistancingFitnessChallenge, which Salles started with Boston-based obesity medicine specialist and fitness enthusiast Fatima Cody Stanford, MD.

Salles' effort is one of many by Stanford health professionals to support each other as they manage a unique set of worries and uncertainties brought by the COVID-19 outbreak.

"I felt like it was one thing I could do to help people regain a sense of control," Salles said. "No matter what is going on around us, we control our reaction and how we spend our time. I thought posting the videos might give folks something to try or something to aspire to in the coming weeks, maybe months, of working from home."

Health professionals are reaching out to their colleagues in a variety of other socially distant ways, too. They are supporting each other through virtual scavenger hunts, stuck-at-home concerts, happy hours and restaurant meals provided during their shifts.

Viveta Lobo, MD, is an emergency physician and the mother of two young children. While she's been spending less time on campus, the number of hours she thinks about work is "all the time." Virtual happy hours with other emergency room doctors have provided a much-needed outlet to process her feelings.

"We're worrying about what's to come. We're concerned about the projections for surge patient volumes and the scarcity of personal protective equipment," Lobo said. "We talk about the evolving hourly changes and the uncertainty around it all -- just managing, discussing, processing."

Holly Tabor, PhD, a bioethicist and associate professor in the department of medicine, teamed up with Menlo Park restaurateur Jesse Cool to create Meals of Gratitude, a nonprofit providing free restaurant meals to Stanford Hospital staff through charitable donations.

And back on the yoga mat, colorectal surgeon and certified yoga teacher Brooke Gurland, MD, has been hosting twice daily classes for surgical colleagues via Zoom. One is specifically for parents and kids; she has participants moo and meow through cat/cow poses and do sun salutations to the tune of "The Itsy-Bitsy Spider."

"I'm looking at the yoga as a way of connecting and trying not to lose our minds," Gurland said in a story for Stanford Surgery. "I'm winging this, but then I think the whole world is winging it right now."

Meanwhile, Salles' "social distancing fitness challenge" has taken off. Many of her 24,000 followers have been inspired to share their attempts to emulate her moves. She replies with encouragement.

For others, the very thought of trying one of her poses provides a bit of comic relief. There have been jokes about not wanting to crowd the emergency department during the virus outbreak, and other surgeons tagged to be on standby for emergency hip replacements.

"Thanks A.," wrote a nurse friend in Boston. "I herniated 3 discs, fractured a femur and peed on the floor."

Photos by Arghavan Salles

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