Comparing COVID Doctors and 9/11 First Responders

Decades after September 11, 2001, many first responders still live with PTSD. Will the same be true of physicians who saw the worst of the pandemic?

September 11, 2001 was a terrible day for New York City’s police officers, fire fighters, and other first responders. But not all of them registered trauma in the same way. Some of them developed posttraumatic stress syndrome quickly, while others had symptoms that emerged slowly, over years.

Frank Dowling, MD, has treated World Trade Center (WTC) first responders for decades, and they see parallels between the responders' experiences at Ground Zero and the experiences of physicians during the pandemic. Dowling hopes that what they have learned from 20 years of treating first responders can prepare the medical profession to meet the mental health challenges ahead.

Dr Dowling (they/them) is a consulting psychiatrist at the Long Island World Trade Center Health Program at SUNY Stony Brook. They are the medical advisor to POPPA (Police Organization Providing Peer Assistance), a confidential assistance program for New York Police Department Officers.