The Ismaili is pleased to introduce our latest series: Healthcare Heroes. As a part of the global movement to acknowledge the dedication and commitment of all healthcare workers around the world working to keep us healthy and safe, we will be featuring healthcare workers from the Ismaili community. Read more about our first featured Hero, Dr Salima Mithani, who describes how she keeps hope alive as she works on the frontlines of the coronavirus crisis.

Dr Mithani grew up in Karachi, Pakistan, and attended Platinum Jamatkhana. She was trained and graduated from the Aga Khan University Medical College, and completed her residency at the University of Minnesota. Today, she’s working on the frontlines of the Covid-19 crisis as a hospitalist at M Health Fairview – a collaboration between the University of Minnesota’s Physicians and its Medical Center.

Dr Mithani also provides care as an Emergency Room physician at the Minneapolis VA health care services in Minnesota. In both these roles, Dr Mithani engages with patients through the emergency department, all the way to the intensive care unit (ICU), seeing the entire spectrum of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Along with experiencing the physical manifestation of the crisis, Dr Mithani – like all of us – is also exposed to the mental anxiety of managing this situation. With three daughters – twins aged 10, and a 13-year-old – Dr Mithani naturally fears for her family. After work, her daughters dash over to her, and stop short to settle for “air hugs.” Dr Mithani says that as her children are distance learning, she too is “distance parenting.”

For Dr Mithani, during this time, faith has been a blessing. She has not met her mother for weeks, but every day, she gets a call from her with prayers. Similarly, friends and family send her messages. “With love and fear for my loved ones, and overarching anxiety, each day I go to work. But somehow, every day, I get a burst of energy, optimism and strength, and I get to work feeling content and somehow safe, even though I only have a surgical mask as protection,” she said.

Dr Mithani shared her experience of attending to two Covid-19 patients: a nurse and healthcare worker exposed at work. Both were alone in their hospital beds, and as she evaluated them, she learned more, realizing they were just like her. They had families just like hers, and were dealing with the same anxieties and emotions that she was. Dr Mithani, overwhelmed with worry about balancing her responsibility to her patients and her family, walked out, doffed her gown, and started reciting a prayer as she washed her hands.

“In that moment I was empowered. It was a special moment. And, as if someone knew and held my hand. I am thankful for my faith, and my circle of loved ones. We will get through this and will come out stronger, as long as we keep loving, keep caring, and keep praying.”