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The Spirit of Giving is as Contagious as Any Virus

150 Years Stronger Patient Story Dr Joelle Simpson

The question arrived from pediatricians across the DC area as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in our region: Where could families safely test children?

Dr. Joelle Simpson, the Medical Director of Emergency Preparedness at Children’s National Hospital, recalled the time she spent as a first-year medical student in Washington, D.C. after September 11 in 2001. “I watched my mentors as they figured out how to help,” she says. “I learned that my greatest responsibility as a physician was to be an example.” In spring 2020, as COVID-19 arrived in our area, she had the idea to pioneer a pediatric testing site for the coronavirus.

“Children’s National is a pillar of the community. A team came together quickly, including our own leadership, staff, volunteers and community partners to help fund it,” Dr. Simpson says. Within two days, the team secured a location at Trinity University near our main campus and procured 500 swabs. Within a month of the site’s opening, staff and volunteers protected with masks, face shields and gowns tested more than 1,000 patients.

Dr. Simpson, who has worked at Children’s National for ten years, says her work on this testing site is one of the hardest, but most important times of her career. Her COVID-19 work inspired similar efforts at children’s hospitals across America. She says that gratitude from local families and community members fuels her work. “As much as COVID-19 is contagious, so is the spirit of love and giving.”