Former DC United player wears masks made out of jerseys during residency at UVA

Former DC United player wears masks made out of jerseys during residency at UVA

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - A resident at the University of Virginia Medical Center is turning heads with his choice of personal protective equipment.

After a few injuries during his career as a Major League Soccer player, including time with DC United, Robbie Russell wondered: what’s next for me after soccer? That question, and a conversation with his father-in-law, brought him to Charlottesville.

“I was like, you know, jokingly, ‘maybe I could go to medical school, you know?'" Russell said. "And [my father-in-law] looked at me, he’s like, ‘Yeah, let’s do it.’”

Russell needed to complete a residency program. He’s now in his second year of that residency at UVA Medical Center.

That’s when a global pandemic hit.

“I expected residency difficult," Russell said. "Did I expect residency to be this difficult with a pandemic? No.”

The coronavirus crisis forced him to go from the backline on the pitch to the frontline of the pandemic.

“It’s making sure that I’m safe, making sure that treating my patients were safe,” he said, "and then at the same time making sure that my family is safe.”

Part of keeping himself safe is wearing new, protective, pandemic-style outfitting. But Russell has his own unique twists.

“Generally whenever I’m wearing my scrubs, I always like to have a soccer jersey underneath it," he said. “I was really lucky that I ended up picking a profession where I can wear like pajamas is like a professional outfit."

He also proudly wears masks made out of U.S. National Team jerseys.

“When you’re walking down the street and you see somebody walking around with a big eight on the side of the face, you’re kind of like, what’s that about? You can tell them it’s a US national soccer team jersey. Pretty hardcore, right?”

While masks and scrubs are quite different from cleats and shin guards, the feeling is the same.

“The objective has become different,” Russell said. "But the effort the teamwork that is going into it, it’s kind of very similar. It’s a much smaller, very different team. But we’re working towards one objective.

Russell has one more year left of his residency before he plans to become a board-certified emergency medicine physician.

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