PORTLAND, Maine — 40 young men and women are preparing to begin work as doctors in Maine this summer after graduating from Tufts University's and Maine Medical Center's 'Maine Track' program. 

This marks the 12th year of the Maine Track partnership between Maine Medical Center and Tufts Medical School, however, the coronavirus pandemic is set to present unprecedented challenges for this class of graduates.

For starters, the students graduated about a month earlier than originally anticipated, on April 24. The early graduation cut short their clinical rotations.

The graduates are scheduled to start residency on July 1. That date is not expected to change at this point. 

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Waldoboro native and 'Maine Track' graduate Dr. Micah Ludwig said he never imagined facing a pandemic in his career. "I think when we're studying history starting in high school and college, we learn about pandemics that have impacted our world before, but I think we look at those as something from history, something that doesn't exist in our modern world."

Van Buren native and 'Maine Track' graduate Dr. Jessica Evans said while she may have anticipated facing a major health crisis during her career, it was surprising to have it happen right at the start of her career. 

"What is surprising is that it is happening now as we're just getting our degrees," said Dr. Evans. "We're kind of being thrown into it, which is kind of nerve-racking but also exciting. It will be a challenge that we'll all work through as a team."

Graduate Dr. Sydney Ford said facing a pandemic at the start of her career has pushed her to look internally. 

"It has made me really think hard about what my skills are, what I can offer, and provide for patients and hospitals at this time," said Ford. 

All of the recent graduates NEWS CENTER Maine spoke with acknowledged they were nervous about the inherent risks that come with working in a hospital during a pandemic. 

"I would be lying if I said I wasn't worried about contracting and potentially bringing it home to my partner and my family," said Ford. 

However, in making those sacrifices, the new doctors are hoping they'll be able to help others. 

'Maine Track' Graduate Dr. Will Hirschfeld said, "We're really going into a profession where we're going to be able to make a difference, even if it's hard to believe at first given our level of training, but I really think that's true and that's a good feeling."

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At NEWS CENTER Maine, we're focusing our news coverage on the facts and not the fear around the illness. To see our full coverage, visit our coronavirus section, here: /coronavirus

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