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Frontline health care workers with ties to Charlotte win free tickets to Super Bowl LV

The group of 10 reunites every year to watch the Super Bowl together. This year, they'll be watching it at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Bay.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A group of frontline health care workers with ties to Charlotte, North Carolina, are headed to Tampa, Florida, for Super Bowl LV.

Ten friends and physicians who trained in emergency medicine at Atrium Health Carolinas Medical Center won free tickets to the big game after the National Football League (NFL) announced it would give 7,500 vaccinated health care workers an opportunity to attend the Super Bowl.

"I got an email that physically had my ticket this morning, so that was just a whole new level of, ok, this actually is real,” Dr. Jill Antoniazzi, assistant professor in emergency medicine at Atrium Health Carolinas Medical Center, said. “And actually seeing the chatter amongst our friends and the happiness… we're just like through the moon."

Dr. Manoj Pariyadath, associate professor of emergency medicine at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, said their intern class became like a second family in as they trained together.

Their love of medicine brought the group of 10 together, but Pariyadath said their love of sports is what reunites them every year.

"We sort of picked the Super Bowl, one, because it's not a typical family obligation-type date,” Pariyadath said. “But two, we bonded over football."

Even though the physicians are now spread out across the country, they make a point to watch the Super Bowl together every year. 

The tradition started in 2002 and has continued every year since the group graduated in 2005, and the reunion has grown with their careers and families.

Pariyadath said the group was planning to watch the game together in Wilmington this year until they found out they won tickets to the Super Bowl.

Antoniazzi said one friend in the group handwrote a letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and shared their story of friendship, football, and medicine.

“We finally got the news that we were going, and I think giddy is the right word,” Pariyadath said. “I’ve been that way ever since I heard that.”

The physicians have spent the last year working on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic across the country, taking special precautions to protect their patients and their own families.

"Having this bright spot where, you know, I can say that I've just been, you know, thinking about being with my friends and being at the Super Bowl, it's just added a lightness that is much, much needed, after the year that we've been through,” Antoniazzi said.

The NFL is taking precautions of its own to make the in-person fan experience safe for those in attendance. The physicians have all been vaccinated, but they aren’t letting their guard down.

"We don't plan on getting too crazy in Tampa,” Pariyadath said. “We're going to stick together, wear our masks, social distance, even though we are vaccinated."

Paryidath said he feels blessed that his group of friends and physicians have this opportunity, especially after what they’ve been through in the last year.

"We get excited about hanging out together,” he said. "This is just going to be sort of icing on the cake to be able to do that at the Super Bowl."

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