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Thank You Heroes

It’s no secret that the heroes we used to envision as children no longer are the reality of the heroes of our every day. Our heroes today are those we know among us: our neighbors, friends, partners – the list goes on. In Pittsburgh, especially, it feels as though every fifth person I know works somewhere within our health care system.

Pittsburgh is basically a training mecca for healthcare professionals. Many universities across the city offer competitive and top-ranked programs – and coupled with the affordable cost of living, Pittsburgh attracts thousands of soon-to-be healthcare professionals each year.

Many of our healthcare heroes have planted and grown their roots in Pittsburgh over the years, but many of them find themselves in a new city, away from their friends and family, pursuing their budding careers. It’s not surprising that many medical or healthcare students have remained in Pittsburgh, on the units in their clinical sites, to leap to action in these critical times we face. For years, experts have projected a looming physician shortage in the United States, with much of the current workforce nearing retirement. By 2032, The American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) estimates that the U.S. may be short up to 122,000 doctors. Many students in the U.S. graduated medical schools early this spring to join the fight against coronavirus.

Through one way or another, many of Pittsburgh’s healthcare heroes find themselves at ASCEND. For many it’s the purchase of a day pass, for some it’s an introductory class, and for others it’s a private event planned with their other dedicated colleagues. Many of the healthcare heroes we know are ASCEND members, staff, coaches, or instructors. I’ve worked behind the front desk for almost two years and could not even attempt to quantify the amount of people who come in or leave, preparing to go to work, in scrubs. Or the students studying between clinical hours in the kitchenette. Or the number or textbooks and flash card sets I have put in the lost and found. I am always astounded by the sheer number of hours spent by these people working the frontlines, and then the hours spent working their projects the moment they’re able.

For many healthcare professionals, climbing is the way they learn to take breaks from their workload and fill time with another passion that gives their life balance. It’s an escape from daily stressors, and the hour or two a day they break from caring for others to care for themselves. For many, climbing is therapeutic, and in combination with ASCEND’s social scene, it serves as the perfect conduit for our heroes to experience respite, meet one another, build connections, and challenge themselves in new and exciting ways.

In many ways, a career in the healthcare profession mirrors the challenges we face on the rock every time we put on our climbing shoes. Facing unexpected challenges on the wall can perfectly prepare healthcare professionals to face unexpected challenges in the field. Developing the skills to send a difficult project can largely mirror the skills required in the field to treat critically ill patients and make quick and effective treatment decisions.

ASCEND would like to thank every single one of our courageous healthcare heroes for facing the challenges they do every single day and for working to keep our community safe and healthy. Your sacrifices during the COVID-19 pandemic has saved countless lives and has provided much-needed care to those in need. We are grateful for people like you in our community and look forward to seeing you back at ASCEND one day soon!

-Bridget Buckman
ASCEND Manager


Photo: Hollis Laird dressed in full protective gear! Hollis was a part of the opening ASCEND staff team and worked for ASCEND for two years. Hollis is now an ICU nurse on the Cardio-thoracic ICU at UPMC Presbyterian.  We will be spotlighting other healthcare heroes on our Instagram @ascendclimbinggym page!