Using down time in residency to help the community
I was in the tail-end of my residency LSU plastic surgery when the pandemic took effect in New Orleans. The community was initially hit very hard, which took a toll on the area. We had some down time due to an inability to perform elective cases or run clinics, and so that our affiliated hospital systems would be prepared to handle an influx of patients, as many cities have encountered.
During the down time, I arranged a campaign to make and distribute cloth masks to people in need – mainly through my social media pages. The campaign was primarily aided by friends and family, and the response was tremendous – despite so many people facing their own struggles and economic uncertainty. When the campaign started, I had only one volunteer. As the funds continued to come in, the money helped finance the production of nearly 6,000 cloth masks and I was able to recruit more than 20 volunteers to assist in each step of the process from sewing and cutting cords all the way to distribution. Without their support, I would not have completed this project, or been able to provide quality material.
We focused distribution to people without homes, those in low-income housing and organizations striving to make a positive impact on their respective communities. This also opened my eyes to the world of people who continually work to make a bigger difference. Meeting all these new people has been one of the many highlights of this project. To date, we have made and distributed more than 2,000 masks, although we are now facing a time crunch to complete our work before July, when I will leave New Orleans to join my brother, Rozbeh Torabi, MD, at his practice in Arizona. I am confident we will be able to complete our work, as we have become more efficient in the past few months.
There have been difficulties – I had to sacrifice family time and turned our house into a mess prior to moving. I have also had to balance work hours (which I thoroughly enjoy), completing paperwork for my practice and getting ready my move west. It has also been a great learning experience in terms of pushing boundaries of what can be done, taking an active role in helping the community in any way possible and the entire process of designing a product while reducing cost and time to make the product. Although I had experience leading fundraising efforts in medical school for local charities, there was nothing close to being this labor intensive.
I have chronicled my work on my Instagram page, @glamplastics, using #masquaradiance so people can see the positive impact, and recognize the donors and volunteers for what they helped accomplish in real time. The page also highlights the different organizations and groups that are doing even more than I could imagine in assisting people in need. I do have to mainly thank my wife, Sarah, my daughter, Ariana, and the LSU plastic surgery family for their support and understanding during this time. Not only am I confident we will complete this work, but I can honestly say I sure will miss residency.