From the Baseline to the Front Line: Michael Lampa
The COVID-19 pandemic has produced much uncertainty across the country, but one thing it has unequivocally reaffirmed is our respect and adoration for the many officials and health care providers dedicating their lives to keeping others safe. In our new series From the Baseline to the Front Line, we’ll honor members of the USTA Eastern community who also happen to belong to that heroic group. Here we speak with Michael Lampa, a former top-ranked Eastern junior who went on to play for St. John’s University in Queens, N.Y. Lampa is now a supervising pharmacist working at a cancer center and a hospital in Huntington, N.Y. during the pandemic.
What has your personal experience been like as a pharmacist on the front lines of this pandemic?
Lampa: Right now I’m working at a cancer center. We have some of the sickest patients in the population, so with COVID-19 we have to be really careful in how we approach treating them. We’re [working with a few patients] via telehealth and have postponed some treatments for others. Those who really need treatment [still] come in, but we screen them for any symptoms prior. They are obviously very sick, and they’re also receiving chemotherapy which puts them in an immunocompromised state. So not only are they really susceptible to catching the virus, they would also have a higher mortality rate if God forbid they do get it. From a pharmacy standpoint, we’ve had to really make sure that we have the drug supply available for these patients, that they are receiving their necessary treatment in a timely manner and that there are no drug shortages.
How have you had to adapt as the crisis has continued?
Lampa: It’s a new situation for everyone. We haven’t ever approached something like this. [At the hospital], there are constantly-updating guidelines on how we treat COVID-19 patients.
It’s been very challenging. We’re also incorporating new study drugs, new investigational drugs, anything that we can find that could prove effective. At the cancer center, we all have to wear masks, PPE, gloves any time we’re in a healthcare setting. We’re standing six feet apart, and we’ve implemented virtual meetings to reduce exposure. Sometimes we’ll say, “Well later on in the future, we’ll go back to normal”. But then we kind of question ourselves, like “What will be the new normal?”
This has no doubt been a stressful situation over the last few months. Have there been any silver linings?
Lampa: At the hospital they usually play the song “Here Comes the Sun” by the Beatles when someone who tested positive is discharged. Whenever that song comes on, it means a lot. You have nurses, doctors, pharmacists, physical therapists, lab techs, so many people from different departments putting their lives on the line to treat these patients. When someone who had COVID-19 is treated successfully and discharged, and you hear that song playing, and you have people clapping [as the patient leaves], [the job] doesn’t get more rewarding than that. It reminds you why you’re in health care.
Before becoming a pharmacist, tennis was a massive part of your life. When did you first pick up a racquet?
Lampa: I picked up a racquet when I was five years old. My brothers played tennis. They are about ten years older than I am. I was just following in their footsteps. I’d follow them to the park. One day I decided to join them and it just took off—I fell in love with the sport. And then from 1999 to 2009 I played as a junior in the Eastern section. I played Eastern tournaments almost every weekend. It was honestly a lot of fun. The Eastern section did such a good job organizing these events, and they really produce tough and talented tennis players—some of the best tennis players in the country. People would say [the best players come from] Florida or Southern California, maybe Texas, but you can never count out the Eastern section. It was really fun to go through those ten years. I made so many friends playing a game that I love. It really helped me develop as a person.
What do you love most about the sport? What have you missed most about it while it’s been on pause?
Lampa: I thought I would get burnt out from playing tennis so much. It turns out you come to love it even more. It’s a one-on-one sport. You can’t pass the ball like you can in basketball or soccer. It really teaches you to depend on yourself and your skill assets. Physically and mentally, I think there’s nothing like it: hand-eye coordination, the agility, the strength. I would say some of the most fulfilling times in my life have involved tennis. I really enjoy it.
USTA Eastern thanks and proudly supports health care professionals for their service. If you know somebody in the USTA Eastern community who should be recognized in "From the Baseline to the Front Line", please contact us.