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Mously Diakhate at the LifeLong Brookside Health Center in San Pablo, on March 22, 2022, where she has worked as a physician assistant in urgent care since 2017. The city has the highest COVID-19 rate in Contra Costa County. (Farida Jhabvala Romero/KQED)
Throughout the pandemic, Mously Diakhate has been treating people in need of urgent care in one of the Bay Area’s hardest-hit communities.
A physician assistant at LifeLong Brookside Health Center in the small East Bay city of San Pablo, which has suffered from the highest COVID-19 rate in Contra Costa County, Diakhate has consistently shown up for her patients, even as community clinics like hers typically offer substantially lower salaries than do private practices.
“We went into medicine to help people,” Diakhate said. “A pandemic is a scary situation, but we have to step up, we have to step up.”
In addition to the constant risk of virus exposure she has faced over the last two years, Diakhate has also felt the looming weight of another major stressor: the $74,000 in student debt she owes.
While the U.S. Department of Education has paused payments and interest on federal loans since March 2020, that respite is set to end in May.
“That’s my dilemma right now,” said Diakhate, 33, an i
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