ER, EMS Doctor Navigates COVID-19 on the Frontlines

Photo Courtesy: Chad Hunt

Matt Steenberg ’93 (LS) recently taught his son how to tie his tie over FaceTime. Steenberg, an emergency medical doctor, has been living separately from his family for the last month as an extra precaution while on the frontlines caring for COVID-19 patients.

Throughout the pandemic, Steenberg works seven days a week as an emergency medical services (EMS) physician with MD1 – a first-of-its-kind charity that brings doctors to the sites of emergency situations for patients who cannot get to the hospital. MD1 does not bill patients or health care systems; rather the organization relies on donations and grants to operate.

Before Steenberg found his calling with emergency medicine, he experienced other careers – one working with sound systems for various Broadway shows, then as a an EMT and firefighter.

Through his work as an EMT he found medicine. After medical school he became an emergency physician working in the ERs of Morris, Essex and Union counties. His passion for care before the hospital led him to subspecialty training to become an EMS physician. Today, he continues to work in the ER, but most days can be found in an MD1 vehicle.

“On one hand what I still see is horrific, but this is what I was trained and called to do,” said Steenberg. “It’s what I need to do.”

At MD1 Steenberg responds to incoming 911 calls, treating patients in their homes.  Nearly all the patients he sees these days are exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms. Steenberg and his colleagues are trained to start patients on ventilators, or even administer blood in the field, before transferring their patients to a hospital.

“Before the pandemic, we responded to things like motor vehicle accidents, building collapses and natural disasters — incidents where patients couldn’t get to a hospital immediately,” said Steenberg, whose patients appreciate having a physician by their side during an emergency.

 “Now all of the MD1 physicians are responding to EMS calls and supporting EMTs and paramedics in the field, helping to triage, assess and treat sick patients.”

Yet Steenberg, who will continue to isolate from his family for as long as it takes to keep them safe, marches on with a sense of satisfaction each day that he is making a difference.  He said that he has always felt a sense of pride in helping others, qualities that were fostered while he and his siblings were students at Oak Knoll.

“When I’m in patients’ houses I’m constantly seeing that patients and loved ones are coming together to care for one another, even if they are isolating,” said Steenberg. “It’s fulfilling to see the everyone banding together to help each other,” he said.
“Each day I’m blown away by the support and thanks health care workers and first responders are receiving. It’s heartwarming. Thank you!” said Steenberg.

Stories from the Frontline is a signature Oak Knoll editorial feature that aims to highlight all of the hardworking alumnae/i of Oak Knoll School of the Holy Child who are out on the frontlines of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. These alumnae/i may be in the medical, law enforcement, and other emergency service fields. Do you know someone we should talk to? Email