A detective in the Vermont State Police’s major crimes unit, Sgt. Ben Katz ’02 is part of the team that investigates all homicides in the state, processing the crime scene and interviewing witnesses. Everything has changed in much of the world of work and that applies in great degree to the state police. Katz notes a recent case involved interviewing witnesses who were under self-quarantine. “It has been challenging learning how to conduct interviews in ways that mitigate the risk of spreading the virus,” he says.
More broadly, Katz works closely with the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME), part of the Vermont Department of Health. “The OCME is working hard to prepare for the upcoming weeks by utilizing models and setting up infrastructure in preparation for an increase in deaths within Vermont,” Katz says. Looking forward, he finds hope in the level of preparation being done: “I know that our planning during March and early April will have a huge impact on the success of our state’s response to the virus.”
Katz’s wife, Dr. Megan Malgeri MD ’12, is a general practitioner with the UVM Health Network’s Milton clinic. She, of course, has also dealt with swift, tremendous change in her workplace, including seeing patients via Zoom, then assessing when their condition calls for face-to-face care.. “We’re trying to walk the fine balance of maintaining high quality patient care, while trying to maximize safety and public health initiatives through keeping people home whenever possible,” she says. “It has been incredible to see how my colleagues and our leadership rallied together to drastically change the way that we practice medicine, and that big changes can happen, even in very large organizations, in a rapid fashion.”
Like so many families, the couple is working hard to balance their professional and personal lives with two young children at home. “Being a vector for the virus is always at the forefront of my mind,” Katz says. Home from work for the day, he showers and changes clothes first thing. Constant handwashing, hand sanitizer, and social distancing are the norm. “We try to demonstrate best practices so that our kids will take everything that is going on seriously,” he says.
Malgeri reflects on the professional/personal balance, physician and mom in these trying times: “Due to the difficulty of grasping the threat in full, I find we frequently dip our toes into hope, then fear, then back again. One moment I negotiate with my daughter to wash her hands or put away her dinner dishes, and the next minute I contemplate who would care for our very busy young children if we both were to become ill together.” She adds, “I think we will eventually emerge from this with a profound appreciation for our community, what it has to offer, and with an enhanced safety net for those in greatest need.”