University of California San Francisco
Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center

A New Normal: Living and Working During the COVID-19 Pandemic

“We have the opportunity to strengthen our broken places." -Dr. Mike Rabow

It’s been six months since the Bay Area sheltered in place: What have we learned?
San Francisco Chronicle, 9/17/20

M.Rabow

Dr. Rabow was featured in our Spring 2020 story at the beginning of the pandemic .


It has been six months since COVID-19 changed nearly everything about the way people are living and working. In a follow up to our spring feature, we’re checking in with a few more Cancer Center staff and faculty on how they have adjusted.
 

Our friends and colleagues are coping in a variety of ways. From easing patients' anxiety and motivating lab teams–to navigating family gatherings online and homeschooling children –there are modifications, and even some positive changes, and the resilience is inspiring.

Click the buttons below to read more.


CalabroCampbellCheung

Kate Shumate

ShumateKate Shumate, MPA, CCRP | Chief of Staff; Director, Administration and Planning

We’re at the six-month mark of working from home. Most people did not expect to be out of the office this long, and now it looks like most of us may be home until June of 2021. How are you and your household doing?

My household is hanging in there. My youngest child, Owen, just started 3rd grade in the SFUSD via distance learning. He has a GREAT teacher who has put together a really nice schedule that keeps Owen pretty engaged throughout the day. My older son is trying to manage college classes remotely from his childhood bedroom here (every 19-year old’s dream, right?).  
With two parents working from home as well, there’s a lot of concurrent Zooming. We are all trying to stay out of each other’s way. Owen and I set up a big table where he does his work, and I work there with him when I’m not in meetings.

Shumate

How have you and your loved ones adapted to meet the difficulties of 2020?

I think the biggest adaptation is getting my parents on Zoom. We have been having family Zoom nights most Fridays with my siblings and their families in Seattle and Los Angeles, our cousins in New York, and my Aunt in Virginia. Getting my parents online (from Sacramento) is NOT EASY and still not without problems, but we usually all get to see each other for at least a little while. That is, until my dad starts saying “I CAN ONLY SEE ONE OF YOU AT A TIME. NOW I CAN’T SEE ANY OF YOU. NOW I ONLY SEE ME.” As great as it is to connect, I admit I look forward to good old fashioned in-person visits.

Have you taken up any new hobbies or interests this year?

Not much new, but I’m returning to things I have always liked but not made time for: cooking, reading (whole books!), and running. My mileage since March 13 is up to 517 miles – some of those have been with Owen as he and I joined a running club together. I am looking forward to clearer skies so we can get back to it.

As chief of staff for the Cancer Center, you’ve had to lead people and teams through unprecedented times while keeping everything on track in terms of what the NCI expects of cancer centers regarding grants, reporting, etc. What has that been like?

I’m not sure everything is “on track,” precisely, but it doesn’t feel “off the rails” either. The NCI has been good about communicating, and we have a strong sense that they are doing their best to empathize and make things easier for us in the ways that they can. While this might mean last minute grant opportunities that require us to hustle, at the end of the day they are trying to make additional awards to address issues we have raised with them, or to apply funds they have to where they think they could best be used. In terms of our staff in general, folks are working away, quickly finding new ways to complete the tracking and reporting of our work in this new environment.

How has it been managing numerous people and teams remotely?

I am full of gratitude for how adaptable everyone has been, and how hard the HDFCCC staff are working to keep everything going for our patients, our faculty, and each other. However, I miss seeing everyone and being able to check in in person. Zoom is no real replacement for in-person interaction.

This is a difficult year for so many reasons. We’re all sharing the common problems 2020 has brought and then personal things that life throws at everyone. If it’s not too simplistic to ask, have you identified anything positive that has- or might come from all of this?

While I’m longing for in-person interaction, the leaps we have made with web conferencing and changes in our day to day work that suddenly became necessary are astounding. There are lots of great things about Zoom, and about what we have learned we can do to sustain remote work. I think that in the future we will be able to utilize a blend of remote and in-person interactions that will be efficient and helpful.

If you wrote a script or screenplay for the next six months, how would things unfold?

Shumate

Hmm…. Maybe we start with a week of perfect rain that puts the fires out, a major downturn in the spread of the pandemic, steady progress towards a vaccine, steady progress towards social justice in all forms, a successful presidential election, Thanksgiving and holidays with our families? Not too much to ask, right? Can we can go see this movie in a movie theater?

Where is the first place you’re going to travel for pleasure once it feels safe and practical (i.e. not quarantining for two weeks at this destination)?

Honestly, little comes to mind besides rescheduling my parents’ 50th anniversary celebration, which was meant to be held on their anniversary, March 14. They deserve the lovely party and family reunion that was planned, and we all are eager to reschedule it.

Alex Cheung

A. Cheung

Alex Cheung | Manager, Cancer Immunotherapy Lab

We’re at the six-month mark of adapting our work and home lives to the COVID-19 pandemic. Most people did not expect to be away from the office this long, and now it looks like we won’t return to campus until June 2021. How are you and your household doing?

It has been a challenging time relying on lots of flexibility.  My family, with young children, are spending a lot of time together and trying to enjoy the moments together.  

How have you and your loved ones adapted to meet the difficulties of 2020?

The biggest thing that we miss is interacting with family members and friends. We have adapted to using Zoom hangouts to catch up and see each other.  

Cheung

Have you taken up any new hobbies or interests this year?

I have taken on more cooking, and even some baking, to keep everyone well fed.  

As manager of the Cancer Immunotherapy Lab, what does your average work week look like now?

The average work week has a lot more zoom meetings!  Communication is even more important to coordinate all the activities in the lab, especially when we are not able to meet in person. Operating with reduced staffing has meant projects have been delayed, and we plan strategically on how to proceed. I try to organize meetings so that I can balance the needs from my family (distance learning support). People have been very understanding of these challenges.  

Have you learned anything new about yourself and your work colleagues during this unusual time?

I have discovered different strengths and weaknesses during this time. It requires specific times to listen to all the different concerns. With the absence of physically seeing each other, it takes longer to coordinate via email and Zoom. 

This is a difficult year for so many reasons. We’re all sharing the common problems 2020 has brought and then personal things that life throws at everyone. If it’s not too simplistic to ask, have you identified anything positive that has come from all of this?

We have discovered ways to be more adaptable to the challenges.  

If you wrote a script or screenplay for the next six months, how would things unfold?

I would like to see the research our lab is doing help with the coronavirus response and UCSF at the center of healing. 

Where is the first place you’re going to travel for pleasure once it feels safe and practical (i.e. not quarantining for two weeks at this destination)?

I would love to travel to Hawaii.

Final thoughts to offer?

We are stronger together. Give a lot of grace and patience. The real strength of our togetherness can conquer any challenges that come our way. 

Gianna Calabro

G.CalabroGianna Calabro | CRSO Project Coordinator

We’re at the six-month mark of adapting our work and home lives to the COVID-19 pandemic. Most people did not expect to be away from the office this long, and now it looks like we won’t return to campus until June 2021. How are you and your household doing?

Like so many others, I have good days and bad days. For the most part, I’m doing okay, but some days are better than others. Today is one of those down days. Even though I don’t have school- age children at home, I do have an elderly father that I have to shop for and also arrange his meals, house cleaning, and companionship since he is not comfortable leaving his home (he is almost 88 years old).  I live 45 minutes away from him and make the trip several days a week.  So, it now feels like I am working seven days a week. 

I also feel very isolated since I’m no longer having any type of in-person conversations or interactions during the day. I have to be honest, it is becoming more challenging to stay in a positive mode.  Working from home also has challenges that, due to the nature of my work and PHI regulations, it is often taking longer to process things without being able to see an actual document, scan items to re-create documents for MyExpense, etc. 

G.Calabro

My home office is in a small 5x6-foot closet. I live in a small apartment and didn’t want to turn my kitchen table into my office.  I do love to cook and actually sit at a table to enjoy my meal rather than on the couch/chair in the living room.  So, I am working in what is essentially a great walk-in closet, but at times it feels very claustrophobic.

How have you and your loved ones adapted to meet the difficulties of 2020?

In the very beginning, I was confused with all the mixed messages about COVID and didn’t take it very seriously. Then, as it progressed, and with great communications from UCSF leadership, I fully understood things, which is very important. 

As most stores are open and available for basic needs, it has gotten a lot easier. But again, the isolation from friends and daily activities has taken a toll.  My sisters, dad, grown sons, and friends are in the same boat.  Thankfully, we seem not be in a down mood on the same days and can encourage each other when needed.  For my dad, it has really taken a toll, and we are all very concerned about him. This puts extra stress on all of us.  Six months ago, he was completely independent and needed only a little help, but now he is suffering physically and emotionally from his isolation.

Calabro

Have you taken up any new hobbies or interests this year?

Not really, I don’t have any time for new hobbies due to taking care of my dad.  In the very beginning, I did learn how to make starter for sourdough bread like the rest of the country! Also, I’m trying to figure out how to work in more exercise.

In addition to your role as project coordinator for the Clinical Research Support Office (CRSO), you do a lot of work around employee engagement. What has that been like in these challenging circumstances?

The Fun Team has done a great job trying to find ways to engage the staff. Our monthly bingo games seem to be a hit.  Then we had our Plant Whisperer event, followed up by our Poetry 101.  It really was a great time for everyone.  We’re very fortunate to have our leadership encouraging us to find creative ways to keep the staff motivated.  With great ideas from the staff, I’m looking forward to coming up with more fun events we can do virtually.

Have you learned anything new about yourself and your work colleagues during this unusual time?

I have learned that we all are adapting pretty darn good.  My director has played a major role in helping me keep positive by listening each week to me talking about anything and everything during our 1:1s.  I feel so blessed to have such supportive leadership from her and above. I have also learned that I really do love being in the actual office. I knew I did, but it really is apparent now that I can’t be there.  Working from home is a great option, and I’ve learned that I actually can do a lot of my work from home. I just prefer not to work fulltime from home.


WiitaTsohE.Bahroos

Janice Tsoh

J. TsohJanice Tsoh, PhD | Professor of Psychiatry

We’re at the six-month mark of adapting our work and home lives to the COVID pandemic. How are you and your household doing?

We are overall doing very well!  I have never imagined we could fill almost three shopping carts at Costco! We are only a family of four.

How has your work in tobacco control research and health disparities been affected by the pandemic?

We have an ongoing research study testing lay health worker (peers) outreach to promote tobacco cessation, healthy eating, and physical activity with smokers and their support people who speak English or Korean.  Our study educational sessions, formerly in-person, are now done by Zoom. The sessions overall have gone very well. Both participants and lay health workers were engaged.  We have also been able to involve participants outside of the Bay Area.

On the patient care side, our tobacco treatment specialist colleagues at the UCSF Fontana Tobacco Treatment Center have started offering smoking cessation classes and support groups via Zoom. We have had great success stories with our patients who quit smoking in these Zoom classes as well!

New Pandemic Hobby? Kimono Mom

Tsoh

"Our teenagers made us oyakodon (chicken and egg bowl) after watching the show. Their oyakodon was delicious. You could tell that I was very pleased and proud."

This is a difficult year for so many reasons. We’re all sharing the common problems 2020 has brought and then personal things that life throws at everyone. If it’s not too simplistic to ask, have you identified anything positive that has- or might come from all of this?

We have been cooking a lot more, almost every day. The best outcome is that my teenage boys now can cook a full meal after barely knowing how to boil eggs before the pandemic.  And yes, they actually cook for us, especially on the days when I have evening clinics seeing psychotherapy patients, also by Zoom. 

Have you taken up any new hobbies or interests since the shelter in place began in March?

I do have a new favorite YouTube channel!  Our whole family love to watch "Kimono Mom" a Japanese cooking show taught by a young Japanese mom in Tokyo and her adorable baby daughter. It’s fun to watch and the recipes are very doable. I have never known we can turn spaghetti to ramen with baking soda our teenagers made us oyakodon (chicken and egg bowl) after watching the show.  Their oyakodon was delicious. I will share with you a picture of their first oyakodon, you could tell that I was very pleased and proud. 

Where is the first place you’re going to travel for pleasure once it feels safe and practical (i.e. not quarantining for two weeks at this destination)?

We would love to visit Japan again!

Final thoughts to offer?

Keep moving forward, we will make it!

Emma Bahroos

E. Bahroos

Emma Bahroos | Imaging Program Manager

We’re at the six-month mark of adapting our work and home lives to the COVID-19 pandemic. Most people did not expect to be away from the office this long, and now it looks like we won’t return to campus until June 2021. How are you and your household doing?

It has been tough. Our daughter was seven months when we first went into shelter in place, and she is now 13 months. Every night, my husband and I go over our calendars for the next day and chalk out times when each of us will be with our daughter. I do end up taking the brunt of childcare. Luckily, she goes to bed by 7pm, and I work from 7-10pm, to catch up. I do feel like I am working more, (with childcare and work).  Our daycare recently opened up, so things are starting to change.

How have you and your loved ones adapted to meet the difficulties of 2020?

Luckily, I have a very supportive partner. We now have a routine. In the evenings while I work, he cooks for the next day so we can still work and take care of our daughter. For us, its mainly been keeping a positive mindset.  There are times we do feel exhausted, with wildfires, bad air quality, and COVID, our spirits get low. But we keep reminding ourselves we are still lucky to have jobs and a home where we can to shelter in place.

E.Bahroos

"Our building’s outdoor garden where we took Mira every afternoon (except bad air quality days), to get outdoor time until daycare resumed"

Have you taken up any new hobbies or interests this year?

Not since the shelter in place started. I miss swimming though.

As program manager of the Precision Imaging of Cancer and Therapy (PICT) Program, what does your average work week look like now?

Since my daughter started daycare in the past week, I have had much more productive days, and I am not working late into the evenings.

Have you learned anything new about yourself and your work colleagues during this unusual time?

I have learned that physically being around my colleagues gave me greater enthusiasm about work, and I felt more excited about my work.  Its been tough to stay motivated, but like I said before, I try to reflect and remind myself to keep a positive outlook.  As for my colleagues, I have learned how understanding and kind my colleagues are. They get extremely excited when Mira (my daughter) pops into our Zoom meetings.

This is a difficult year for so many reasons. We’re all sharing the common problems 2020 has brought and then personal things that life throws at everyone. If it’s not too simplistic to ask, have you identified anything positive that has come from all of this?

I have loved seeing my daughter and grow and reach specific milestones and experienced joys of parenting with my partner. It has been the silver lining of shelter in place.

If you wrote a script or screenplay for the next six months, how would things unfold?

I feel that the next six months will look much like the last month. Where we have a better understanding of how to live our lives while taking precautions. Daycare will have for screening, we will continue to work from home, wear a mask when outside, maintain physical distance as much as possible, and continue handwashing.

Where is the first place you’re going to travel for pleasure once it feels safe and practical (i.e. not quarantining for two weeks at this destination)?

See my family in Toronto. But right now, I do not have desire to go anywhere far. I would be content with an hour-long swim in an outdoor pool.

Final thoughts to offer?

I keep reminding myself it could be worse, and that has made things much easier. I do go out for a bike ride around the city early in the mornings to take some time for just me. I know we feel exhausted, and feel crappy, but there is a pandemic going on.  #staystrong 

Arun Wiita

A.Wiita

Arun Wiita, MD, PhD | Director, UCSF Stephen and Nancy Grand Multiple Myeloma Translational Initiative Laboratory

We’re at the six-month mark of adapting our work and home lives to the COVID pandemic. How have you and your loved ones adapted to meet the challenges of 2020?

Getting less sleep, for the most part.

A.Wiita

"One of my days during pandemic parenting, where main goal was to find empty parking lots for kids to ride bikes in and not interact with anyone else."

How has your work been affected by the pandemic?

March to June was not a fun time! My wife’s work at Apple was actually more intense than usual (in addition to her very busy day job, she was also involved in their COVID contact tracing efforts). Since my work was more flexible, I took on pretty much all the parenting and homeschooling duties for our two-year old and seven-year old. Fortunately, my parents were able to help out two days a week when I had to go to UCSF for clinical duties.

Without them, we would have really been in dire straits (dire straits = nonstop iPad babysitter). My only productive work time was 9pm-1am, get 5-6 hours of sleep, then do it again. Already getting flashbacks. I was trying to write a few grants during that time period, too, which was really not enjoyable.

Since June, we have been fortunate that childcare has opened back up for both kids, so for the most part, we have been able to get back to normal, albeit working from home.

I definitely do not miss commuting every day, and enjoy the fact that when I do have to go in there is no traffic. I do particularly miss being able to do social events or other gatherings with the lab.

This is a difficult year for so many reasons. We’re all sharing the common problems 2020 has brought and then personal things that life throws at everyone. If it’s not too simplistic to ask, have you identified anything positive that has- or might come from all of this?

I do think that for UCSF in particular, wider use of Zoom, and having everyone really used to it, will be a boon. For many one-on-one or small group meetings, I feel that being in the same room does not add that much over videoconference. Avoiding the time sink of traveling from one campus to another for such meetings will really be great for everyone.

Have you taken up any new hobbies or interests since the shelter in place began in March?

Wish I had time!

 


A huge thank you to all those who participated in this project!


Feeling Overwhelmed? You are not alone. Here are a few new resources to combat daily stress.

Many resources exist at UCSF to help faculty and staff with the ongoing challenges of living during the pandemic.