with Sandy Bhaurla
Sandeep Bhaurla is an Epidemiologist at the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. She’s working the front lines of the Covid-19 crisis as a leader commanding the troops. She met Oscar, my dear friend, at CAL where she got her BA. Her education didn’t stop there, she got her masters and various degrees after that. She’s wicked smart.
In the words of Sandy, “Ever since I first studied viruses in high school, I quickly became fascinated by all aspects of infectious diseases. I hope to find ways in moving these diseases from the realm of neglected and emerging to historical and eradicated. Now, as the Antimicrobial Resistance Epidemiologist of the Healthcare-Outreach Unit, I am working to achieve that goal.”
While the plague mask might seem like something out your typical Burning Man chic, this is not that. This is the face of someone who hopes one day to enjoy that festival, but first and foremost, she has a war against the novel coronavirus to win. A team to lead into battle.
Sandy, Oscar, and I lived together in Los Angeles early on in their relationship. Oscar and Sandy are happily married now. They’re truly adorable. So is their dog, Trill. More than their vivacious spirit for life, Oscar and Sandy represent humans with fascinating interests. Instead of playing words with friends, Sandy chose to play virus simulations. Pretty weird I do agree, but I joined in out of curiosity. The game is over once the entire population gets the virus. I admit it was fun, but the game ended surprisingly fast. Dramatic. Dismal. Apocalyptic. The stakes were high and Sandy has known that far before we cut funding to the World Health Organization. At the time I didn’t understand what was salient about the moment because I couldn’t see where we would be today. A number in a simulation. At level two in this bizarre videogame. A videogame with a strange and comical antagonist. A world without a leader. Lately, I’ve relished in the fact that we do have leaders. Leaders all over the damn place. IATSE members sewing masks. Doctors, nurses, firemen, grocers, and don’t forget liquor store owners. Public Health workers organizing the troops on the front lines with precision so that we ameliorate this situation locally and expand to isolating and containing outside the lines.
Sandy is working to achieve the goal of eradicating the disease that has plagued us as of late - and to me, that is so damn cool. I’m grateful to be able to catch you on your short walk break with Trill. You and Oscar are beautifully weird together. Sending love and focus your way - we need you!
Photos by Danny Simmons