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2 Colorado doctors heading to New York to assist in battle against COVID-19

"We all have a role to play and this happens to be mine," said Dr. Gabriel Lockhart, a pulmonologist and critical care intensivist at National Jewish Health.

DENVER — Two Colorado doctors are heading to New York on Monday, to help doctors on the front lines at Mount Sinai Hospital treating COVID19 patients.

Dr. Gabriel Lockhart, a lung specialist and critical care intensivist at National Jewish, and Dr. Cathy Wittman will lend a hand at the New York City hospital – an area experiencing one of the largest outbreaks in the U.S.

Lockhart said National Jewish has a good affiliation with the respiratory institute at Mount Sinai.

"We asked, 'can we send supplies, can we send personal protective equipment, can we assist via telemedicine?'"  Lockhart said. "And their response was 'no, but we could use some hands.'"

Lockhart said this trip is first and foremost about helping New York, but this experience could also help Denver down the road.

"So along with directly helping the people of New York, this is a prime opportunity to see what they're doing well and how we can improve with the advantage of a head start and take that data back to the people of Denver," he said.

Lockhart, who will have scrubs and respirator mask in tow, expects to be in New York for eight days.

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9NEWS asked Lockhart what he expects in New York City. 

(Editor's Note: This interview has been edited for context and clarity.)

9NEWS: What do you expect your role to be in New York?

Lockhart: The role is still to be determined, but I expect we're going to work. We’ll be there for a total of eight days. We're going to work every day we're there and really be on the front lines. They just have a lot of sick patients with respiratory failure that just, they're excellent physicians at Mount Sinai, they just need more people, so we're going to be rounding out patients, and just working side-by-side with their excellent physicians

You sound eager to go?

Lockhart: Absolutely. If I could have been there yesterday I would have been there... There are certainly things that cross my mind. I can't think about those things – I have a lot of good to contribute to the city 

Do you have any travel concerns?

Lockhart: That’s a common concern, flight travel. 

At National Jewish, we're fortunate to have a lot of generous donors through our international reputation and one donor, in particular, was able to provide us transportation. So we're not going through the same hoops we'd normally go through with airports. We're trying to avoid public transportation as much as possible for transmission issues. We have transportation arranged for us going from the airport to the hotel, and they’ve situated us at a hotel very close to the hospital – within walking distance and able to avoid potential exposures.

What's the situation at Mount Sinai right now?

Lockhart: We’ve all the seen the anecdotes going through social media right now. What we understand is that they are doing a great job handling the amount of workflow going on at their hospitals and it's just really a matter of ... there are too many [patients] right now. The just need a little extra help, more hands on deck.

Ideally, you'd come home with some knowledge to help doctors in Colorado?

Lockhart: This is going to be an invaluable experience to bring back to city of Denver. National Jewish is one of the larges pulmonary departments in the nation, and manages ICUs for several hospitals all throughout Denver. We're charged with guiding these hospitals through this pandemic. We're not in nearly as tough of bind as new York is right now, but we're definitely ramping up in our hospitals.

So, along with directly helping the people of New York, this is a prime opportunity to see what they're doing well and how we can improve with the advantage of a head start and take that data back to the people of Denver.

Do you have any messages for 9NEWS viewers?

Lockhart: This is my role to play, to help with the people over in New York, and use this to bring back to people of Denver. I'm young, I'm healthy, I don’t have kids, I'm well trained – this is my role to play. Just as it's [the media's] role to report to the public what's happening, it's just as important as the public's role to stay at home at all times possible. We all have a role to play and this happens to be mine.

The city of New York asked for us to come in. It's possible down the road that the state of Colorado could need similar help. It'd be great to pay this forward and maybe if we need it, other people across the nation would be willing to help us out as well.

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