Wednesday, January 20, 2021
St. Luke’s Doctors Recreate Iconic Symbol as They Get COVID Vaccines
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Dr. Julie Lyons led the charge for a handful of physicians to pose as Rosie the Riveter.
   
Tuesday, December 29, 2020
 

STORY BY KAREN BOSSICK

PHOTOS BY JOY PRUDEK

Dr. Julie Lyons wasn’t about to let such a momentous occasion as getting her COVID vaccine go by without a little fanfare.

So, the family medicine doctor rolled up her sleeves in the vein of Rosie the Riveter. And she got some of her fellow doctors to do the same.

 
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Dr. Kathryn Woods and her husband Dr. Richard Paris recreate the symbolic gesture.
 

“I was inspired to make my vaccine meaningful today after such a difficult year,” said Lyons.

Lyons said she got the idea from a social media website called Physician Moms Group COVID-19, where she and other physicians have been sharing information on COVID and how to treat it. One of the doctor artists involved with the website posted an adaptation she painted of the famous Rosie the Riveter and everyone voted on the title “One Shot.”

“I love costumes on a good day, and I thought the Rosie the Riveter photo had a meaningful place in history,” said Lyons. “Earlier in the pandemic one of our nurses had sewn special hair coverings for all of us, and I just so happened to pick one that matches the painting. It was a serendipitous opportunity!”

Rosie the Riveter became the iconic image of working women as the star of a campaign aimed at recruiting female workers for defense industries during World War II. She flexed her muscle for posters that went out across the nation with the words “We can do it!”

 
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Dr. Brock Bemis appeared to have fun recreating the iconic image.
 

Rosie quickly re-emerged as a symbol of strength during the COVID crisis—this time, with a polka dot bandanna over her nose and mouth to prevent spreading the virus, in addition to the one around her head.

Joining Lyons in the COVID vaccine’s adaptation of Rosie was Dr. Frank Batcha, Dr. Brock Bemis, Drs. Kathryn Woods and Richard Paris and Dr. Cortney Vandenburgh.

It seemed tailor made for Lyons, who has always seemed to find a way to connect important symbols of the past to the present, whether carrying her great-grandfather’s doctor bag on her rounds or making house calls—something that made a comeback during the pandemic.

She got the COVID vaccine on her birthday, which made it extra special.

 
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Dr. Frank Batcha had no problem exhorting others to be part of the effort to restore health to America.
 

“I was really excited. Like many, I had some uncertainties about the vaccine a few months ago. But I did some research and felt confident that it was safe and effective,” she said. “Getting the vaccine was a bonding moment with my fellow health care workers. Feeling grateful.”

Some of the St. Luke’s staff, including Lyons’ husband who is a nurse, contracted COVID-19 when the virus swept through the Wood River Valley in mid-March. But they elected to get the vaccine this past week, rather than trust that they have existing antibodies or T-cells that might help them fight off another infection.

Top health officials, such as Dr. Tony Fauci have recommended that those who have had COVID-19 get the vaccine when it becomes available to them. There is not enough information to know how long after infection someone has natural immunity that protects them.

“Beyond 90 days they don’t know so it’s best to get the shot,” Lyons said.

 
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Dr. Cortney Vandenburgh wore a smile as big as Rosie’s.
 

Lyons said she is thankful St. Luke’s was able to get and administer the vaccines and she looks forward to getting the second four weeks from now, which will give her 95 percent protection.

But, as hospital spokesperson Joy Prudek pointed out, staff are treating the shot as another layer of protection for now.

“They’ll still wear masks, social distance, abide by other protection measures until enough people have been vaccinated,” she said. “Having one dose of the vaccine doesn’t give anyone a hall pass at this time.”

A DOCTOR AND HER ART

The woman who painted the “Our Shot” graphic that inspired several St. Luke’s physicians to roll up their sleeves and pose in that determined Rosie the Riveter look is Dr. Saira Malike Rahman, a painter and practicing pediatrician currently residing in Houston, Texas.

Rahman received her formal art training at the University of Chicago and went on to graduate from the University of Illinois College of Medicine.

She says that painting allows her the chance to explore the unanswerable questions encountered in medicine. Questions about the human condition, suffering, healing, hope, life, death and our responsibility to each other have been material for her recent work.

“On one’s journey to become a doctor, one comes face to face with what it means to be human at the deepest level,” she writes. “It has been an incredible journey from my first days in the anatomy lab with its reminders of our fragility and mortality through my encounters in the pediatric clinic with children whose lives have only just began. In a time where the study and practice of medicine has become more impersonal…and more of a business, my art has helped me reconnect with my reasons for entering the field of medicine.”

Her art in the age of COVID is poignant and powerful. One piece shows doctors and nurses trying to boost a sagging Statue of Liberty. Another shows a doctor pulling a weight that includes educating the public, threat of litigation, science denial, brave face, finding PPE, misinformation, student loans, coping with death and trauma and more.

To see some of Rahman’s “Art in the Time of COVID”—and her other work--visit https://saira.carbonmade.com.

 

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