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Dermatology Resident Creates GoFundMe Account to Feed Frontline Hospital Workers

Esther Chung, MD, a dermatology resident, is among the many Washington University School of Medicine and Barnes-Jewish Hospital doctors who temporarily stopped seeing patients when their clinics were shuttered to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Sidelined by these closures, Dr. Chung wanted to help her colleagues serving on the frontline. By partnering with The Foundation for Barnes-Jewish Hospital, Dr. Chung was able to provide meals to hospital departments where they were needed the most.

While awaiting possible redeployment, she came up with an idea. On April 1, she created a GoFundMe account to provide free meals from local restaurants to hospital workers in St. Louis. She also created a second account to feed hospital workers in New York City, where she had lived for many years and graduated from Weill Cornell Medicine.  

“These health care workers are daughters, sons, siblings and parents just like me and you,” Dr. Chung says on her St. Louis account page. “I am looking to support the frontline physicians and staff at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis by providing meals and nourishment for them as they fight this battle daily.”

Dr. Chung aimed to provide more than 50 meals per delivery and figured each meal would cost about $10 person. Based on those figures, she set a goal of $3,000. She promised donors she would post the number of meals, the restaurants that prepared them, and the date of delivery. By April 7, Dr. Chung had met her $3,000 target.

In her first delivery effort, Dr. Chung worked with a friend in the Barnes-Jewish Emergency Department (ED) to arrange 55 dinners for the ED night crew. Although she was successful, Dr. Chung realized she could better serve hospital workers by determining where the meals were most needed. She then reached out to the Foundation, which had been working with Barnes-Jewish Hospital Logistics Liaisons to coordinate the delivery of thousands of meals throughout the campus.

In the days that followed, donations to Dr. Chung’s GoFundMe St. Louis account paid for more than 250 meals that were delivered to a variety of departments and shifts. In addition to the ED, they included intensive care units (ICU), COVID-19 floors, and transport and custodial services teams.

The final 45 meals financed by Dr. Chung’s GoFundMe St. Louis account were delivered on May 6 to night shift ICU workers. In announcing the last delivery on the GoFundMe page, Dr. Chung asked donors to suggest other ways she could help or perhaps partner with them.

“It’s the very least I could do,” she says about her efforts. “I wish I could do more.”

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