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Basketball Player-Turned Doctor Makes Impact On Pandemic Front Line

Dr. Niki Williams gained mental toughness through team sports. Now she uses that agility to treat patients as an emergency room physician on the front lines during a global pandemic.

Dr. Niki Williams was a three-sport star in high school before moving on to play basketball at Hofstra University. But that was just sports. Her career now involves life and death as she works as an emergency room medical physician in New York City, one of the country’s epicenters for the virus. She’s spent the year on the front-lines in the fierce battle against COVID-19.

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“I have played team sports all my life so I am accustomed to the rigorous physical demands placed on an athlete,” she told theObserver-Reporter about the pace inside an emergency room. “I’m used to that vigorous activity. Nothing, though, could have prepared me for this emotionally.”

Williams, who played basketball professionally in Israel, works 12-hour shifts to provide care and comfort to patients who are battling the new disease amid a global pandemic. In these incredibly difficult times, Williams wants to lend more than her medical expertise.

“I’ve spent a lot of time when I’m out of work calling family members of my patients to give them an update on how they’re doing,” she told GoHofstra.com “I’m trying to be really cognizant of how they’re feeling and how this is affecting them. I try to be as honest as possible with them and I’ve found people are so appreciative to hear the doctor’s voice checking in on them and give them an update on how their family member is doing.”

As tough as it’s been for her physically and emotionally, Williams still finds reasons for hope, and this year has only reinforced her passion for her profession. 

“We have a little bell in our hospital, so if somebody with COVID-19 goes home, we ring the bell,” Williams told WTAE in Pittsburgh, the city where she went to high school. “And I can tell you I have been hearing more of the bell lately, and that is just a little promising in itself to kind of keep us going in the ERs.”

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