WordPress Contributor Andy Fragen Shares His Experience as a Trauma Surgeon During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Last weekend I had the opportunity to interview Andy Fragen, a longtime member of the WordPress community and core contributor. He is also the author of the GitHub Updater plugin, which allows developers to enable automatic updates to their GitHub, Bitbucket, GitLab, or Gitea hosted WordPress plugins, themes, and language packs. In the video below, Fragen gives us a window into his world on the frontlines as an acute care surgeon.

After working his shifts at the hospital, Fragen returns home and voluntarily keeps himself in semi-isolation from his wife and kids. He spends his time working on his plugins and contributing to WordPress. In addition to improving GitHub Updater, he also recently became a maintainer for the core Site Health component and the WordPress Beta Tester plugin.

“I look at computer programming and stuff like that as puzzle solving,” Fragen said. “It’s an interesting way to occupy time and figure out something to do. We have a little aphorism in surgery: the enemy of good is better. I don’t necessarily stick to that in plugin development, because otherwise we’d be at a standstill. Things would never get better and never improve.”

During normal times when there isn’t a pandemic going on, Fragen enjoys attending local WordCamps in LA, Orange County, Riverside, San Diego, and Phoenix. When he first started getting involved with WordPress he decided if he was ever going to meet any of the people who make the software, he would have to get involved in some community events. He started sponsoring WordCamps so he could have the opportunity to meet the speakers and contributors, and then he was hooked.

When he’s not stitching people back together, Fragen can be sometimes be found leading the the core Site Health meeting. He tries to pop into the core development meeting when his schedule permits.

Durning our interview Fragen offered some good tips on navigating the many claims and conspiracy theories that are swirling around with the pandemic. The rampant misinformation campaigns have so far not affected his outlook as a healthcare worker.

“For the most part, when we’re working, we’re working, and we don’t necessarily pay attention to all the extraneous things that are going on around,” he said. “You’re in the moment and doing what you need to do to get the work done and take care of the patient.”

It has been months since he has been able to hug his wife and kids, but Fragen is maintaining a sense of normal by continuing his hobbies in isolation. Despite the increased requirements for PPE and vigilance at work, he said his training has prepared him for this time.

“It’s amazing what you can get used to,” Fragen said. “A lot of these things affect people in different ways. For better or for worse, some of these things never bothered me. The training is hard enough. Because of that, you learn to adapt a little bit better, I guess. When there are things happening, as I like to say, ‘If I’m having a bad day, someone else is having a worse one.’ You are there to take care of them and to fix them as best they can be fixed, if they can be fixed.”


16 responses to “WordPress Contributor Andy Fragen Shares His Experience as a Trauma Surgeon During the COVID-19 Pandemic”

  1. It’s so great to see Andy highlighted in the Tavern. He’s an inspiring community member, writes excellent code, supports his plugin, and is a stand up gentleman. It’s sad to hear about the family sacrifices he’s having to make, but to then hear his perspective of “If I’m having a bad day, someone else is having a worse one.” speak so much to his character. Keep doing good Andy (Dr. Fragen)!

  2. Oh. Nice to see him here. Back then I had a lot of contact with him because of the
    github-updater plugins. Unfortunately, the plugin does not work properly with MAIn WP. But this is not the point.

    He seemed very committed and communicative to me. I wish him all the best for the future and stay healthy.

  3. Honestly, beyond the fact that this man contributed to WordPress, it is so impressive that on top of programming languages he is also a surgeon. Most people struggle to acquire one skill in their lifetime, this man is a programmer plus a surgeon. My hat goes off to this man!

    Thank you for being you !

  4. I’m living proof Andy is at least s good a surgeon as he is with PHP 😉

    Good to see and hear you Andy to been to long! I was just down in your neck of the woods a few days ago but didn’t reach out because, uh, covid. But do hope to see you again very soon. Thanks for all the noble work you’re doing.

  5. I recently had the pleasure of interacting with Andy for the first time, when I posted a general question about making beta testing available for our plugin, using his GitHub Updater plugin.

    Andy was so friendly and helpful, he reached out to me directly and gave me some great advice, even made changes to his plugin that would make my job easier. The fact that he was doing this in between shifts at his real job during the current pandemic was amazing. The world would be a much better place if we all took a page from his book.

    We salute you Dr Fragen.

    • Thanks Jonathan.

      I’m happy to help where I can. My doing this between shifts isn’t a whole lot different than others contributing in between client work. I just have more demanding clients. 😉


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