Today, my dad arrived in New York aboard the USNS Comfort. As a member of the Navy & Navy Reserve for over 30 years, he was called up to join a Navy-led effort to boost hospital capacity in NYC. In his 60s and on a confined ship, I am concerned and worried for my dad given COVID-19. He's sharing a cabin with five others. When I asked if he could push back on the order given his age, he was not interested: "This is what being a doctor is about. If I can help, I will help."

Watching him get called up and serve has given me a new level of gratitude and appreciation for those in the medical field. My dad had always encouraged me to pursue medical school, which meant there was no way I would follow his path! I discounted the real purpose that drives so many of our medical providers every day. Now, I look at so many of my friends who are healthcare providers, and I just want to express my gratitude and love.

It’s been amazing to see so many come together and contribute in their own way. We’ve certainly been reminded how codependent we are in this world (can we remove the phrase “unskilled labor” from our collective vocabulary?!). And to my dad and all in the medical field, I want to send an extra bit of love today.

This made me think about how I could do something to help so far from the front lines.

My dad & me

I've always loved the concept of habits and the value in tracking them. I built an automated habit tracking app years ago.  It was weird. It tracked everything I did, and then mapped it to a 24 hour clock.

Over the years, I've tried to support my dad in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. We're rarely in the same place: I've spent most of the past three years 10,000 miles away from my dad (St. Louis to Tokyo).

Each time I would return home, he would express frustration over not meeting the goals he set since my last visit.  So a few months ago, I started a Slack group called "Dad Habits" for us to update eachother on some of our goals.

After a few weeks of technical challenges, Slack started working. More than anything, it became a reason for my dad and I to stay in touch: the shared goals were an extra forcing function to check in more often.

As much as Slack worked, it was too complex. My dad never really got the hang of the Channels 😂. So a friend and I built an app for my dad and I to use.  It was a simple app: it just tracks whether or not you completed something and lets your friends know.  But it has worked wonders for me and my dad, and a few friends we shared it with. Even now, when my dad is sharing a small cabin with five others aboard the USNS Comfort, we're still using the app as a tool to support each other to complete our goals ("Aerobic to break a sweat" is one of his — though he's 1/3 completing that on the ship thus far!).

Given the value I've found from it, Albert and I decided to release the app for free to hopefully help people stay motivated & socially connected during this time of social distancing, as I plan to with my dad. You can download it on iOS here and Android here.