Stories from the Frontline: Delivering New Life Under Dire Circumstances

Ghislaine Smith ’08, a third year OB/GYN resident at Saint Barnabas Hospital, said that as the coronavirus continues to spread throughout the country, New Jersey is running out of essential supplies and ventilators.

“We are so low on supplies that our hospital has cancelled all of our elective surgeries, including ovarian and cervical cancer surgeries,” said Smith, who works in oncology services during the week with a now-reduced skeleton team and is on call on weekends.

A resident of Bloomfield, Smith comes from a long line of physicians in her family – eight to be exact – and none of them have seen anything close to this pandemic before. Her sister and her fiancé tested positive for the virus and Smith is doing her best to protect herself from it, despite limited resources.

“The biggest problem, aside from the scarce essential supplies, is the fear and uncertainty of things now,” said Smith, who could be pulled from delivering babies at any moment to help service the ER or ICU should they need her.

Some of her pregnant patients have COVID-19, but most are doing well. Smith and her team tell their pregnant patients to avoid the hospital as much as they can until it’s time to deliver and have been isolating newborns if their mothers are positive. New protocols are in place, too, for c-sections as it can aerosolize the virus.

A current text chain between Smith and friends from Florida International University medical school, exemplifies the dire situation.

“All of us are scattered working now in the health care field around the U.S. and hearing all sorts of scenarios,” she said.

One of Smith’s friends from the text group is an internal medicine physician in New York City. On a recent text he said his hospital is running out of ventilators.

Another physician friend on the text string was baffled by how his patient seemed to be healthy one minute, but then needed to be intubated immediately the next minute.

Yet, even with all the uncertainty and fear that the virus has caused, Smith remains calm in large part because of her strong faith background, which was fostered as a student at Oak Knoll.

“I tell my nurses to be calm while mostly everyone around us is on edge. I will always give my patients my best medical knowledge but also, I want to give them hope. My time spent at Oak Knoll is now helping me endure this fight,” she said.

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

oak knoll seniors 2020Ali Good and Laura Sumas Barry helping frontline workers through their Village Supermarkets donation program.