Hot meals for healthcare heroes

A participant in the BIH Clinician Scientist Program of the Berlin Institute of Health and Charité has started a fundraising campaign that provides COVID frontline workers in Charité’s emergency rooms and intensive care units with a free meal each day. In its first month, it raised more than €50,000. 

Dr. Elise Siegert is a participant in and spokesperson of the BIH Clinician Scientist Program and works as a junior doctor in Charité’s Department of Rheumatology and Clinical Immunology. Her residency training included a six-month stint at the university hospital’s intensive care unit (ICU). “That was, of course, long before the coronavirus,” says the 39-year-old physician, “but even during ‘normal’ times a shift lasts at least 12 hours and you’re so busy you can’t leave the unit.” So if the ICU staff want to eat something during their shift, they have to bring something with them. “And as a mother with little time to spare, it’s hard to quickly prepare a sound meal in the morning or evening before going in to work,” Siegert explains. “I was always delighted when patients’ relatives brought us something to eat. Now that the ICU staff have to treat isolated patients they must have even less time.”

When she heard of the preparations being made for the COVID-19 patients, she knew right away what one could do to help the frontline healthcare workers: “A hot meal waiting for them is exactly what would make their day, especially when they could enjoy it with colleagues on their break!” But this is more than just a helping hand in a time of need. It is also a gesture of solidarity and appreciation. Siegert immediately started brainstorming with other members of the Clinician Scientist Program. This led to the idea of launching a fundraising campaign on the online donation platform betterplace.org, and with Lieferando she found a meal delivery service that was excited to be a partner of such an “amazing initiative.” “I had the idea on a Friday, and less than two weeks later, the first meals were delivered,” Siegert says, “and my colleagues in the ICU are absolutely thrilled.”

The first donations were made by friends, but soon complete strangers were also making donations and even two large donors came forward. “We quickly raised enough to fund the first phase, so we were able to start delivering meals straight away,” says Siegert. A hospital in Munich has already contacted her and wants to set up a similar fundraising campaign there. Siegert doesn’t believe there will be any money left over: “This crisis is more like a marathon than a sprint – and we all have to stay committed for the duration!”

The BIH Academy’s Clinician Scientist Program enables outstanding young doctors at Charité to pursue research projects during their residency training. Professor Duska Dragun, Director of the BIH Academy, points out that the participants are highly successful scientifically in that they publish their findings in leading journals, acquire competitive third-party funding, found start-ups, develop digital health solutions (e.g. a coronavirus app), and are appointed to senior positions. “But the clinician scientists are also conscientious physicians who are actively engaged in clinical care, and who are not only well connected but also have a strong sense of social commitment. I’m particularly pleased about that!”

If you too would like to donate to the healthcare heroes in Charité’s intensive care units, please visit: wecareforyou.betterplace.org