Yes We Can: Female Physicians and Scientists on the Front Lines
Published February 2021
These inspiring female physicians and scientists are at the center of Northwestern Medicine’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, providing better care for patients while advancing COVID-19 research.
At the Bedside
Khalilah L. Gates, MD
Pulmonology and Critical Care
Dr. Gates’ goal is always to provide the best care she can to her patients. As a pulmonary and critical care physician at Northwestern Memorial Hospital during the COVID-19 pandemic, she has truly been on the front lines caring for patients in the COVID-19 Intensive Care Unit. For Dr. Gates, the COVID-19 vaccine is an infusion of hope.
“I’m hopeful that within the next month or so, I’ll be able to hug my father, my sister and my nephew. For that return to some semblance of normalcy, I’m very enthusiastic and very grateful,” she says.
Michelle L. Prickett, MD, MS
Medical Director, Respiratory Care
Dr. Prickett has been on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic in the intensive care unit at Northwestern Memorial Hospital since the first patients were diagnosed with COVID-19. She experienced a lot of sleepless nights worrying about helping patients while keeping staff safe. “It’s been a hard nine months filled with anxiety and fear, but getting the COVID-19 vaccine was the easiest decision I’ve had to make this year,” she said in December 2020. Dr. Prickett has put in long hours caring for some of the most critically ill patients with COVID-19.
In the Lab
Teresa R. Zembower, MD
In addition to caring for patients with infectious diseases like COVID-19, Dr. Zembower is the healthcare epidemiologist and associate medical director of the microbiology laboratory at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. Throughout the pandemic, her contributions have included:
- Establishing infection prevention and laboratory guidelines to keep patients and staff safe
- Investigating and managing COVID-19 outbreaks
- Assessing laboratory platforms and interpreting laboratory results to help rapidly detect SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
Dr. Zembower was also co-author on a study showing that PPE is effective in keeping healthcare workers safe in acute hospital settings.
In the Community
Sadiya S. Khan, MD
Cardiology and Preventive Medicine
Dr. Khan is a passionate advocate for improving equitable access to healthcare. Dr. Khan has leveraged her expertise in public health to enhance awareness of the importance of equitable testing, treatment and vaccine distribution for COVID-19.
“We have to ensure that disparities in health care accentuated by the pandemic are not further accelerated,” she says. Dr. Khan has advanced COVID-19 care through research, studying the impact of COVID-19 on the heart.
Melissa A. Simon, MD
Obstetrics and Gynecology
Dr. Simon leads the Northwestern Medicine Center for Health Equity Transformation, which aims to lift health for all by exposing root causes of health inequities and serving as a hub that pushes boundaries in research, education, workforce development and community engagement.
“The pandemic disproportionately impacts Chicago’s most vulnerable populations, resulting in a disproportionate number of cases and deaths among Black, Latinx and other minority communities,” Dr. Simon explains. “We had to make sure these communities were receiving accurate information about the pandemic, and about masking, hand-washing and physical distancing. And we needed to bring the voice of these communities back to the academic community so we could better tailor programs to meet their needs.”
Around the World
Lori Ann Post, PhD
Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine
Dr. Post leads the team that developed the Global SARS Surveillance Project, which tracks not just where SARS-CoV-2 is now, but where it is going, how fast it will arrive and whether that speed is accelerating. This is the first system to track the virus dynamically, and it is currently in use in 200 countries.