Health Blog

Cherry Health Frontline Heroes: Dr. Abha Gupta Varma

Even during a pandemic, Cherry Health providers and staff work day-after-day to care for patients who are sick and need urgent care. Despite the challenges of adapting to a new normal – both at work and at home – these healthcare professionals never fail to find inspiration around them to keep them going.

In this series, we want to take a moment to feature a few of the many resilient, dedicated Cherry Health staff working on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Abha Gupta Varma, M.D.

As an internal medicine specialist at Cherry Health’s Heart of the City Health Center during these difficult times, Dr. Varma draws inspiration from those around her – particularly patients.

“Every single patient I have had the pleasure of speaking with, be it via video conferencing or by a simple telephone call, has first asked, ‘How are you doing, doc? Thank you for taking the time to speak with me today. Are you safe?’ Such sincerity has often left me speechless,” said Dr. Varma. She added that while most of her patients often face hurdles such as illiteracy, transportation, lack of support structures and joblessness, they are “nothing short of well informed and compliant, aware of the seriousness of the current state, and committed to staying safe and at home.”

Working on the frontlines, Dr. Varma has witnessed firsthand that COVID-19 does not discern rich from poor, sick from healthy, young from old – everyone is a target. Instead, the severity of the disease and its stronghold are what distinguish its victims.

“Our most vulnerable loved ones have had to take on a level of isolation that has left so many feeling helpless,” she said. “I have not seen my 73 year-old mother. She resides 2 hours away. She is a widow and has all that she needs from a practical standpoint, but she is alone.”

Dr. Varma said the fallout from the pandemic will not only have been the lives lost, but also the lives altered due to the lack of PPE or a safe environment in which to quarantine, heightened anxiety and fear, the trauma experienced by health professionals, and the economic devastation leaving many uncertain how to find a way out. Despite the heavy toll inflicted by this destructive virus, she said there are important lessons to take away from this experience.

“This virus has been a cautionary tale and one that forces us all to reflect on all that we take for granted: health, access, certainty, freedom to come and go and assemble – movement in general,” said Dr. Varma, who added families are now slowing down, changing routines, and spending more time together. “Families are dusting off board games, gathering around at leisure meals, going for walks, holding one another tighter – all the things that may otherwise have been laid to the side in favor of movement.”

In her life outside of Cherry Health, Dr. Varma said she’s finding ways to take advantage of the down-time, from trying new recipes and downloading audiobooks to daily calls with her mother and embracing the rare opportunity to be with her family.

“I am slowing my pace and enjoy having the children close,” Dr. Varma said. “When this is all over, I will be keen to see how we may be altered. Will we pick up where we were forced to leave off, or will we find ourselves humbled. Only time will tell.”