A life in medicine

In Memoriam: DO ER physician and Medical Economics contributor died from COVID-19

Frank Gabrin, DO, 60, treated COVID-19 patients prior to falling ill himself.

After treating patients with novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at the New Jersey hospital where he worked, emergency physician Frank Gabrin, DO, 60, died from the disease on March 31.

The TODAY Show covered Dr. Gabrin’s life and passing in its “A Life Well Lived” segment on Sunday. According to TODAY, Dr. Gabrin is the nation’s first ER doctor to die from COVID-19.

In addition to practicing emergency medicine, Dr. Gabrin was an author and a contributor to Medical Economics, which also published a remembrace of him. In 2012, Dr. Gabrin published a cover story in the publication about surviving testicular cancer and how the experience shaped his outlook on patient care.

“Dr. Gabrin exemplified what it means to be an osteopathic physician,” said AOA CEO Kevin Klauer, DO, EJD, FACOEP. “His service was selfless and courageous, along with countless others serving on the front lines of this pandemic.

“His passing is not only a loss to our professional family, but to the emergency medicine community, and should remind us of the sacrifices he and others have made in service of COVID-19 victims. I am grieving his passing alongside the entire osteopathic family and emergency medicine community.”

The following information about Dr. Gabrin’s life and passing is from an obituary shared by the American College of Osteopathic Emergency Physicians (ACOEP):

Dr. Gabrin stayed home from work beginning March 26 after exhibiting symptoms associated with COVID-19. News outlets are reporting that on March 31, he began experiencing chest pains and passed shortly after.

“Dr. Gabrin was a valuable member of our ACOEP community and we are honored to call him one of our own,” said ACOEP President Robert Suter, DO, FACOEP-D. “He was a shining example of selfless professionalism, an advocate for physician wellness, and a champion of treating patients with compassion and empathy. We are all the worse for his loss.”

For many years Dr. Gabrin contributed to The Pulse [an ACOEP magazine], sharing personal insights into his experiences as a patient and how that informed his work as a physician. He called for the need for compassionate care for every patient who presents to the ED, and gave physicians practical insights into combating compassion fatigue and physician burnout.

He embraced technological advances in the ED, but warned poignantly about losing the human connection when physicians become too dependent on machines. He expertly blended the benefits of mindfulness with science to help teach physicians how to care for themselves and, by extension, to better care for their patients.

“Mindfulness is a method that is extremely reliable,” Dr. Gabrin wrote in a 2017 Pulse article. “It allows us to blend the art and the science. Through mindfulness, I am able to be fully engaged in the process, embrace our new technology, and most importantly, connect emotionally to my patients and their families in healthy, extremely positive ways. This is how I am able to love what I am doing again.”

Dr. Gabrin, a supporter of the Foundation for Osteopathic Emergency Physicians (FOEM), was a graduate of the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Emergency Physicians. He served in the United States Navy Medical Corps, where he was honored with a Navy Achievement Medal. Although his career was primarily focused on clinical care, he was the director of the emergency department at Millington Naval Hospital and served as chief resident and subsequently as a resident trainer for the Northeast Ohio Consortium Emergency Residency Program. A two-time cancer survivor, Dr. Gabrin wrote the book Back from Burnout: Seven Steps to Healing from Compassion Fatigue and Rediscovering (Y)our Heart of Care.

9 comments

  1. What were his symptoms attributed to the virus?. Did he test positive? Sounds as though he had a cardiac event. Why classify this as a Cotona death?

    1. Because the virus causes a profound inflammatory reaction which disrupts plaque leading to MI. But the initial cause was the viral inflammation. There is also emerging data about cardiomyopathy from the virus but the suddenness here suggests MI brought on by the virus. This is seen in flu as well but worse with this virus. So sad-what a great loss

    2. Yes, as Dr Holt mentioned, coronavirus has been associated with cardiovascular complications such as myocarditis, arrhythmias and possibly MI. It’s discussed in a JAMA cardiology article (https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamacardiology/fullarticle/2763846).

      I work in ER as well, and know of a case going to cath lab and later confirmed to have COVID-19. Sure, anecdotal and does not demonstrate a cause-effect relationship, but hopefully more studies are underway.

      In any event, my prayers to Dr Gabrin and his family.

  2. Sounds to me the the hypotension associated with the COVID 19 infection uncovered silent coronary ischemic “chest pain”. CIrculatory collapse is what is killing most of these individuals. In his loss maybe we can look into ourselfs and realize WE are not invincible and start taking better care of OUSELVES. God rest your soul and thanks for the teaching!

    1. I think you’re right .Maybe we are not as invincible as we think.
      Take the time to take care of yourself !

      Work Hard and Play Hard !

  3. This is very sad. God bless him and his family. For me it also brings up frustration that most of us doctors follow only the most traditional guidelines as to treatment. After years of research I am wondering how many patients could be saved if we added alternative modalities into the treatment mix. For years I have treated patients who have viral illnesses with high doses of vitamin C, along with D3, zinc, melatonin, quercetin, probiotics, Vitamin A (Retinol), selenium and others that have been shown to stop viral replication and shorten the illness. We are missing the boat if we do not treat early and aggressively with these nutraceuticals along with anything else we see as appropriate (even IV vitamin C etc). There are many papers out there that confirm this. I hope this helps others consider these options.

  4. I would like to thank Dr Gabrin for his dedication to his patients and our country he will not be forgotten. Doctors like him should be an inspiration to the rest of us as we face this crisis together. I will keep him his husband and family in my prayers.

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