By Melviena Miller-Drew

Morristown Alumnae member Dr. Sharon Strater has been fighting the war against the novel coronavirus since the pandemic’s inception in early 2020. A medical physician in the emergency room at Saint Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston, New Jersey, for the past 21 years, Strater treats patients who suffer from a variety of aliments including strokes, heart attacks, and COVID-19. She is among the first in New Jersey to have received the COVID-19 vaccine.

“I decided to get the vaccine, fully aware of its risks and benefits,” Strater stated. “I knew there could be complications. I also knew it would give me the opportunity to produce antibodies to help combat the spread of COVID-19 and better protect my family.”

Along with Strater’s personal protective equipment, the vaccine provides her with another layer of protection against contracting COVID-19. On a typical day in the era of COVID-19, Strater wears goggles, a face shield, gloves, a disposable surgical gown and cap, and an N95 face mask. The latter she purchases herself.

Ever vigilant in safeguarding her loved ones from the contagion, Strater wears her face mask when she is with her two sons and maintains social distancing even while inside her home. “You can never be too careful. Like all parents, the health and safety of my children are my top priority,” shared Strater, a single mother.

Strater’s own physical and mental health are paramount as well. “We often bear the weight of our patients’ anxieties.” From approaching relatives of patients waiting hours in their cars for promising news on their loved one's status to comforting a patient after deciding to place him or her on a ventilator, the adverse effects of the pandemic exact a heavy toll on Strater and her colleagues. Strater now meditates and uses the Calm app to manage stress and help her sleep.

“Many of my co-workers and I also have begun to suffer from ‘maskne’ or mask acne, a skin condition caused from wearing face masks constantly,” Strater explained. “Dehydration is another problem because some people are not drinking enough fluids due to persistent mask-wearing. 

Despite the many challenges of frontline service during the pandemic, Strater points to rewarding moments. “It’s a great feeling when we comfort, reassure, or stabilize a patient or facetime their family to let them know the patient is going to be okay.”

Strater earned her bachelor’s degree from Duke University, medical degree from Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, and master’s degree in public health from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She was initiated into Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated, at the Morristown Alumnae Chapter in 2012.