Frontline Worker Balances the Demands of Covid-19 with Her Love of Surfing

Frontline Worker Balances the Demands of Covid-19 with Her Love of Surfing

Elizabeth Vandyke Freer, Liz Vandyke to her friends, lives the life of Riley in Charleston, South Carolina. She spends her days working hard in her career as a PA, and enjoys all the sun and surf that the low country has to offer. However, her roots are laid in Hanover, PA, where she was born and raised. As an only child to two physicians, you’d think that Liz was always bound for a life in the medical field, but that was not always her goal. She attended undergrad at the University of Virginia where she earned dual degrees in Art and Art History, and stayed for an additional year to pursue a concentration in photography.


Her education path was what ultimately led her down to Charleston, where she interned at Charleston Magazine as a photographer. While she learned a lot and gained valuable experience, she decided that photography, while it may be her passion, was not her professional end game. This lead her to start dabbling in other jobs, including several positions as a chef in Charleston, and later on, as a private caterer. While this path was a fun change of pace, she felt that it also probably wasn’t the end all be all for her career. So, as she worked hard to continue her catering business, she also started to take pre-requisites in hopes to be accepted into their Physician Assistant program. Her hard work paid off and she began the 27-month journey to certification. Upon graduation, she spent two years working in the specialty of Allergy and Immunology. Now she is solely in urgent care, where her Covid-19 journey began.


In addition to her regular influx of patients and problems, she was working in one of the larger Covid-19 testing centers in the city, with each testing sometimes 300 people a day. This lead to hectic days and stressful nights, but she affords a lot of her support and success to her encouraging team.

“When life hands you lemons, sometimes you get to make lemonade, other times you throw on full PPE, put your head down, and do the damn thing,” said Liz. A quote that many cannot relate to, but all can appreciate.

Liz’s mother, a physician in Pennsylvania, is an Infectious Disease specialist, who was brought out of retirement to help fight the global pandemic. Liz leans on her as a primary support system and mentor when trying to navigate the pandemic on the Charleston front, and looks up to her both professionally and personally. She speaks of her highly by saying,

“She is a very smart lady and definitely my best friend.”

With the weight of the world on her shoulders, Liz turns to the water to find her release. While in PA school, she worked a rotation in Oahu in the medical tent at surf competitions. Being able to watch and assist greats like Kelly Slater sparked a fire in Liz to get out there and ride some waves herself. With no teacher or technique, she bought her first board and dove in headfirst.


“I would take it out and get my ass handed to me,” she said with a laugh. “I had no idea what I was doing.”

Slowly but surely her “all gas no breaks” technique led her to get the hang of it, and actually start to really enjoy it. She would go out with friends, especially during the pandemic, when hanging out indoors wasn’t encouraged. It has evolved into a way she copes with tough times at work, and just life in general. With a schedule of three 12-hour shifts per week, she most enjoys hitting the waves when everyone else is at work, where she can enjoy her solo form of self-care.

When not on the ocean or in urgent care, you can find Liz out with her dog, a rescue named Kaia, cooking for fun, or hitting up a yoga class at The Works. She also enjoys trips to the Bahamas where she can snorkel and lobster spear with friends and family.


Please take time this holiday season to thank the frontline workers who are tirelessly working to combat this pandemic - or donate to charities that support them. As seen through Liz’s passions and hobbies, healthcare workers are some really cool people, and we want to make sure that they can continue to enjoy their lives outside of the hospital.