WINSLOW, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -- As a point guard for the Arizona State University women's basketball team in the 1990's, Dr. Michelle Tom learned a lot about teamwork. Now that's being put to the test in a way her generation has never seen.

Former ASU basketball player on the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic

"You have to work as a team," she said. "You have to work as a team for the ultimate goal." That includes knowing what she's good at and what a nurse is phenomenal at doing. 

Leadership, coordination and cohesiveness are lessons from the basketball court that have translated into the medical field for Tom. She is working at the Little Colorado Medical Center and Winslow Indian Healthcare Center in Winslow. One is a hospital and the other is an outpatient clinic, she says. Her weeks consist of rotating 24-hours shifts.

Former ASU basketball player on the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic

In a rural setting, Tom has to be able to do it all. Every day at work she puts on personal protective equipment, which she says can be a challenge to get right now. She comes in contact with at least one COVID-19 positive patient a day. "A lot of these cases, you know, they’re feeling OK, and then next day, they are not breathing very well," Tom said. 

Growing up on the Navajo Nation, it was important for Tom to return to work at home so she could really connect with patients. "Giving them comfort  is a huge thing, especially now when I have to speak to an elder that’s in the hospital who only speaks Navajo, and they can’t see family  because there’s no visitors."

Because she could put her family at risk, Tom has to live away from them for now. She has a  public Facebook page, and her work has gotten national attention.

Former ASU basketball player on the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic

Her message for all of us: Wear a mask. Wash your hands. Practice social distancing.

"I see healthy people, young people who have lost their battle with COVID-19, something that I have not seen in my training, and nor have my colleagues. This is real. This is taking lives of people who should have lived decades longer.

If you would like to help with relief efforts, Dr. Tom is working with this organization.

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