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Ace Levy: 'We're programmed to be the best'

24 days ago
Georgia Athletics
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The following story, written by Leland Barrow, was originally published on georgiadogs.com.

NEW YORK, N.Y. --- By definition, a triple jump is a complicated feat, one of the most daunting of any track and field event.

A jumper makes three continuous but separate movements before landing in the familiar sand pit. The jumper begins with a hop where he or she takes off and lands on the same foot. That motion is followed by a step landing on the opposite foot. The finale is a jump into the sand that usually ends with both feet together.

For Toronto, Canada, native and Kennesaw Mountain (Ga.) High School graduate Asaph "Ace" Levy, training and competing in the triple jump for the University of Georgia Bulldog track and field team helped him unknowingly prepare for a hurdle that would come down the road in his professional career: the COVID-19 pandemic.

Levy, who graduated from UGA in May 2011 with a Biology degree, is the Senior Chief Resident of the Diagnostic and Interventional Radiology division at Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan. Tending to his unit's patients, creating a service coverage schedule for the 16 radiology residents in the program and representing his department at conferences is Levy's usual day to day job description.

However since the pandemic struck in March, Levy's world was rocked like many others. He suddenly had to show up at work to treat COVID patient emergencies and try to keep himself safe and healthy at the same time.

"If I could summarize this experience in one word, I would say devastating," said Levy. "Nobody was prepared for a pandemic of this proportion, especially given how hard we were hit in New York City. Not only was it challenging due to the number of COVID patient emergencies and deaths we experienced, but also due to anxiety of treating these patients every day with the fear that we could infect our families with the virus at home. No matter how challenging things got, we all banded together as best we could to get through the peak of the pandemic."

While Levy said that this pandemic has been the most challenging thing he has had to deal with professionally, he is no stranger to overcoming tests in his life.

"I've been told that I would never be a doctor," Levy explained. "Even as a medical student, I was told to aim for less competitive specialties. Fortunately, I am now transitioning into Interventional Radiology Fellowship at Columbia University Medical Center (New York-Presbyterian).

"Getting through all challenges boils down to two things: God and tenacity. These are the things that have helped me get through this pandemic, but also the same virtues that propelled me on the track and in the classroom at UGA. I guess you could say that it's my inner Dawg that keeps me going."

Just as most members of the medical field have done, Levy works to find "positivity" from his patients each day. An example of the positivity he feels is when the Lenox Hill Hospital family celebrates each discharge of a COVID patient by playing a song throughout the facility.

"I'll never forget when they played 'Empire State of Mind' by Jay-Z and Alicia Keys when we discharged our 1,000th COVID patient home from our hospital," said Levy. "I was in a patient's room and she cried tears of joy as we listened and acknowledged the moment together. If moments like those don't keep you going, I don't know what will."

Levy explains that New York City, which has more eight million people, has been a different place recently.

"The city that never sleeps seems to have been hibernating during the past couple of months," said Levy. "The biggest change is seeing very few people in a city that is usually overrun with tourists. It has undoubtedly been humbling to be in NYC during this pandemic."

One unique way Levy has captured his experience is by capturing his commute to work on a GoPro 360 camera. Unlike most of the population, he travels from his apartment to the hospital by skateboard.

"It's not every day that people get to see Times Square the way that they see it in my videos, abandoned," Levy said. "The goal was to make a statement, without saying a word, as a testament to how serious things were during this time, but furthermore how seriously New Yorkers responded to make sure we kept each other safe.

"It's a blessing to be able to continue to do what we do every day as health care professionals. Sometimes it's important to capture beautiful moments along the way, even amidst a pandemic."

During his days in Athens, Levy demonstrated what a well-rounded student-athlete and person he was. A qualifier for the NCAA East Prelims in the triple jump, Levy scored three times in his featured event at the SEC Championships. He also earned U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) All-Academic honors for his work in the classroom. In addition, Levy was Georgia's nominee for the SEC Brad Davis Community Service Post-Graduate Scholarship for his time donated to the community.

"As a Bulldog, we're programmed to strive to be the best at what we do," said Levy. "Even when we don't perform as well as we hoped, we never give up. We investigate why things went the way they did and work twice as hard to overcome it.

"Competing as a track and field athlete is unique in that you literally have to push yourself to run faster and jump farther or higher than you ever have before. Training often requires pushing yourself beyond your physical limits in order to progress."

Levy arrived in Athens during the 2007 fall and left with a diploma following the 2011 spring. His memories on the UGA campus range from smelling barbeque and hearing "Go Dawgs!" chants from tailgaters on a home game day; spending late nights eating and studying at Snelling Dining Hall; and teaching students at Barrow Elementary School's afterschool program.

"I had an amazing and comprehensive experience at UGA and I wouldn't change a thing if I could go back and do it again," said Levy. "My experience as a track and field student-athlete also allowed me to travel to many domestic and international destinations that I wouldn't have otherwise experienced."

As New York City and many other destinations around the country and beyond cautiously begin to regain some sort of normalcy, Levy has a simple message for all:

"As we navigate through this pandemic, I urge you not to panic but to stay vigilant as we start to ease back into normalcy. Remember to wash your hands and wear a mask if you can to continue to prevent viral spread. Stay safe out there!"