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A Father One Day and an Orphan the Next

Adam Sagot's life changed forever in June 2019. He not only became a father to a daughter but also received notice that his fellowship program would be closing—all at the same time.

This is one commentary in a series of occasional first-person accounts of the effects of Hahnemann University Hospital’s closure in Philadelphia. To view other commentaries, click here.

I experienced the most sensational and emotional event of my life on June 25, 2019. My daughter, Lennon Leigh Sagot, was born at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital weighing 6 pounds and 7 ounces. She was the most beautiful sight I had ever seen.

Sagot with his newborn daughter Lennon in the hospital the day she was born.

The next morning, my wife and I anxiously waited for the pediatrician to come assess little Lennon. I looked at my phone and noticed an email that said the Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Fellowship program at Drexel University College of Medicine and Hahnemann University Hospital, where I was employed, was having an emergency telephone meeting at 9:30 a.m.

What are we going to do? Will I have insurance for my family? I just matched my forensic fellowship with UPenn for next July, will this affect my spot? Should I just quit and work as a general psychiatrist to support my daughter?

I had no idea another emotional event was on its way.

The pediatric team arrived just prior to the call, and I moved to the corner of the room to dial in as my daughter had her very first check-up. The look on my face changed from excitement to immediate concern and fear and my wife asked what was wrong. My head gave me no time to think of a gentle response to her. Instead, I blurted out, “Our program is closing! I don’t know what this will mean.”

The next six weeks were anything but comfortable, and for all of the wrong reasons. I was suddenly not just a new father, but a newly orphaned fellow of child and adolescent psychiatry.

I was at a loss and my family was overwhelmed during a period that was supposed to be filled with joy and new beginnings, not closures. I knew having a newborn was going to be difficult, but we were utterly unprepared to handle the uncertainty of my fellowship program closing and what that could mean.

We had “emergency” phone meetings nearly every day with our department. New information was coming out daily, often contradicting information from the previous day, and sometimes we would learn more from an article in the media than we would from a meeting. It was truly chaotic.

The next six weeks were anything but comfortable, and for all of the wrong reasons. I was suddenly not just a new father, but a newly orphaned fellow of child and adolescent psychiatry.

The psychiatry department at Drexel was an amazing place to train, filled with amazing teachers and physicians. I was honored to be the chief fellow there, even if it was just for a short time. Dr. Wei Du, the department chair, and the other leaders like Dr. Donna Sudak, Dr. Mark Famador and my former training director Dr. Ayesha Waheed, did everything they could to bring us the information as they learned it. They advocated for us as strong as anyone could have hoped from a department. They did their best to keep the training program together, and when that slowly became an impossibility, they shifted their focus on making sure all trainees would have a place to train and not be displaced. I am forever indebted to them all, and I cannot thank them enough.

During those last few weeks, a number of options were presented to us, each of which had their own unique set of qualifiers and caveats. There was a new program with Hackensack Meridian Health that recently opened an accredited fellowship– but that would mean moving my family out of Philadelphia. Tower Health was possibly going to buy the department and the training programs– but that was contingent on a number of factors including the bankruptcy court proceedings and reaccreditation by ACGME.

Finally, Dr. James Luebbert, the Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Fellowship training director, reached out. He spent hours with Dr. Waheed and the ACGME review committee working out a way to accommodate all nine of the fellows from the Drexel/Hahnemann program. He was determined to help, and despite the inconvenience of having nine additional trainees in a program that was built to manage only six, he chose to do what was best for his community and child psychiatry.

Sagot's wife holding baby Lennon to her chest.

Sagot’s wife holding baby Lennon.

Through the collaboration of the department at Jefferson, including the department chair Dr. Michael Vergare, Residency director Dr. Kenneth Certa and others, all nine of us were given offers to become fellows with Jefferson. Needless to say, we all immediately accepted. We had a new home.

It was just 32 years ago that I was born at Jefferson and now my daughter entered the world in the very same place as her father.

It is difficult to recount the emotions from a time that was the most joyous yet most stressful that I can ever remember. But now that I am settled in and can look back at what happened, in some ways, it all makes sense. I was born at Jefferson, and now, so was my daughter. It is a special place to our family.

In my original search for a program, I had applied to Jefferson. Mentors I had in my residency at Rowan University – Jefferson South Jersey had trained there, and I wanted to do the same. I selected Drexel because I was given a pre-match offer that I could not pass up. I truly enjoyed my time with Drexel and cannot speak higher of the support and education I received.

Still, I cannot help but feel that I ended up where I was meant to be.

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