Naaz Malek | Lead Physician’s Assistant, Emory Decatur and Emory Hillandale Hospital
One of the hardest hit parts of the country during COVID-19 has been New York City, which reached its peak case count in April. Medical professionals across the country put their lives on pause to go and assist, including Naaz Malek, the Lead Physician’s Assistant at Emory Decatur and Emory Hillandale Hospital.
“My experience working in the Bronx was very humbling,” she says. “I witnessed an entire city go comatose because of something invisible. Most of my staff members were volunteers from different parts of the country who put their lives on hold to care for COVID-19 patients. … I am grateful for the opportunity and honored to have been of assistance.”
Originally a freelance journalist, Naaz’s journey into healthcare was shaped by another crisis—the recession of 2008. “My once upon a time dream of becoming a doctor, which I was too timid to pursue, started to surface as I covered story after story of the devastation brought on to families because of the economy. I felt helpless behind a camera holding a microphone. I wanted to do something.” So she applied to PA school and shortly after graduated with a Master’s in Health Sciences from the University of South Alabama. “I enjoy working in a fast-paced environment where there is something new and different to do every day. I knew going into clinicals that emergency medicine would be the best field for me,” says Naaz.
Like so many in the medical field, Naaz has witnessed the pain and anxiety the lack of social and physical interaction has caused so many. “It hurts me to see my patients alone in their rooms, especially the ones who are elderly, … don’t speak English as their first language or are adults barely above the age of 18. These patients feel lost, alone and terrified without a loved one at their side.” This change has also affected Naaz and her coworkers. “The pandemic has taken away our most valuable non-verbal means of communication: our personal touch. … I haven’t truly seen my coworkers’ faces in almost six months. I can hear them laugh, but I can’t see them smile.”
Recently, Naaz has set up a drive-thru COVID testing site in partnership with Emergent Testing. The site is located at 3110 Lawrenceville-Suwanee Road in Suwanee and offers results within 24-48 hours.