Episode 11: Working on the Frontlines of COVID-19 with Melissa Zook ’94

Document Type


Publication Date


Department 1

President’s Office


In Episode 11 of Conversations Beneath the Cupola, podcast host, Gettysburg College President Robert W. Iuliano, is joined by family practice physician Melissa Zook ’94. Iuliano and Zook discuss the strain that COVID-19 has put on essential workers and the healthcare system, particularly in rural Kentucky, where Zook works and lives.

The episode begins with Zook detailing the journey that led her to being a physician in Kentucky. She says she knew that she wanted to do something to make a difference in the world, and becoming a doctor aligned well with her skills and passions. She credits part of her success and the strong relationships she’s built with her patients to her Gettysburg College liberal arts education.

The conversation continues as Zook explains how her work and life in rural Kentucky has shifted due to COVID-19. The counties she serves are among the poorest in the nation, and the area at large struggles with food insecurity. She says the rural environment has helped slow the spread of the virus, so that their already-minimal medical resources are not depleted, but it has also been a challenge to provide medical advice remotely when most of her patients do not have internet or cellular connections.

Looking forward, Zook says she hopes that we do not simply go back to our lives and pretend that COVID-19 never happened once it becomes more widely under control—rather, we need to be aware of the lasting risks and effects.

The episode concludes with an anecdotal “Slice of Life” told from the president’s perspective. Iuliano builds off of the topic discussed at the end of his conversation with Zook—the significance of remembering to say, “Thank you.” In that spirit, Iuliano shined light on the Gettysburg College Women’s Volleyball team, who participated in what they called “A Week of Gratitude” on their Facebook and Instagram accounts. It was their way to say, “Thank you” to all the essential personnel who are working on the frontlines to keep the country functioning and safe.


A full transcript of the podcast is available on the podcast website.