For a US Rheumatologist, the COVID-19 pandemic initially presented an opportunity to step up and contribute in a large-scale way, but she quickly felt ill-supported in doing so.
“As medical students, we always dreamed of being called to duty and to truly help someone. Now we get to do this. At first, I felt grossly under prepared. I felt that I was being called to “fight” so to speak, but without proper protective equipment.”
Beyond the lack of supplies, she noticed a lack of urgency or concern about the disease in the US.
“Over the winter, we saw cases of COVID-19 grow exponentially in China, throughout Asia, and then Italy. At first, the United States did not think that COVID-19 would hit us hard.”
When the pandemic did hit in full force, she felt the US was much less prepared than it could, or should have been, given the warning time. She also noted that in the US, the issue of wearing a mask quickly become a political issue instead of a health issue – one which the government wasn’t mandating at the level she saw as necessary for public safety. This lack of clear guidance on a basic public health issue has caused her a lot of frustration, and even anger.
Why is wearing a mask such a big deal? I wear a mask in public to protect myself and those around me. Why can’t others do the same. Why is our national government not enforcing more to try and help people?
The results of this refusal to wear masks were quick to be seen, as were other impacts of the “what pandemic?” approach to management at a state level. When cases started to rebound in-line with states reopening, she said:
“The results of this refusal to wear masks were quick to be seen, as were other impacts of the “what pandemic?” approach to management at a state level. When cases started to rebound in-line with states reopening, she said:“
“States in which numbers rise or have continued surges and outbreaks tend to be more relaxed with social distancing and lenient with the use of masks. This is how we are going to backwards with COVID-19. COVID-19 has not gone away and will continue to be a problem, it may even get worse.”
Despite her frustration, she’s found comfort in the vigilance and support within the medical community itself.
“We are all in this together – a common theme in this country these days. Physicians and other health professional have been very supportive of one another.”
She’s felt this both at a national level in the media and in her day-to-day practice, which helps her continue to push on.
Physicians from other medical groups constantly ask how the practice is doing, what changes have been made, how we are impacted by telehealth, how my practice and my patients are doing. There is a tremendous amount of resources and continued support through social media platforms. I hope this camaraderie continues past the pandemic and continues to grow like it has been.
But while this support is certainly galvanizing, Doctors in the US still currently feel like they’re shouting into a void, with large swaths of the public and government officials choosing to disregard their warnings and recommendations. But there is strong support within their community to continue to fight, both for the health of their patients as well as the health of the country. Time will tell if their resolve is enough to continue to push against the tide of both a pandemic and public ridicule, with an eye of hope toward what the future can bring.
“This is a scary time in medicine, but also exciting. As a Rheumatologist, I am used to treating the unknown. However, I look forward to seeing how the pandemic truly unfolds.”
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