April 10, 2020
So COVID-19 hits New York in a big way. I am in general a calm person and do not easily get flustered. I thought I could handle it. But with the SUNY Chancellor ordering us to make all education online, with the Governor essentially shutting down all non- essential operations, and with the Association of American Medical Colleges suggesting we pull clinical students from clerkships and other clinical rotations, I feel overwhelmed. It is like multiple big hits happening in rapid succession. I am taking a deep breath as I write this. The numbers in our hospitals- number of tests, number of admissions, ventilated patients, number of providers infected- are all unbelievable realities today.
People around me are worried. They don’t know how they can work from home for an unknown period of time, whether they or their loved ones will get sick, whether they will have enough supplies to last till this nightmare is over and whether they will have their jobs.
It has been a roller coaster. COVID-19 has tested us all in numerous ways. But I am heartened by how quickly we came together as a community to solve problems we had never dealt with before. I just got emergently certified to practice telemedicine. I probably will do this from home. I volunteered to coordinate the volunteer needs and offers for the health system. Our students are organizing how to help the frontline practitioners and the health system in dealing with this overwhelming situation. They have volunteered to baby sit for the faculty who have to be at the hospital, they have volunteered to virtually visit elder families in the neighborhood, some are stitching face masks. I am heartened by the coming together of all of us and the overall creativity and problem solving people demonstrate when challenged.
We will overcome this challenge as well. We are a strong nation, we are a strong resilient academic community. And as we each navigate this in our own unique ways, we must remember that we are learning a lot along the way- about our hidden talents and nature. We will emerge stronger from this. Uncertainty and ambiguity is what we as doctors, as pediatricians, are trained to deal with. I want to commend the many heroes- from my assistant who keeps my office “ clean” with Lysol several times a day, to the front desk staff who properly triage our patients, to the office team leaders, to the critical care doctors, the emergency volunteers, the hospital leaders, the student leaders, the residents the fellows… the list goes on. I also want to commend my fellow APA members, committed to your trainees, your faculty, your research, your patients and each other. If you haven’t yet, reach out to your fellow Region, SIG or APA members. Share your stories and experiences, we will navigate this together.
In my many years belonging to the APA, I know two things, that we will be there for each other and that this will pass. We will balance our duty to treat with our need for self- preservation. We will emerge stronger. A silver lining in all of this that our children fortunately seem less affected. We need to make sure we support one another emotionally through this unprecedented and chaotic times. This virus also teaches us to be reflective and humble, to really think about what matters most to us and allows us to see the futility of the thousand opinions on absolute rights and wrongs that we often argue about. Let us all hope and pray that we experience minimal loss of life and minimal disruption to the livelihood of people. Let us emerge stronger on the other side of this tragedy having learned many many new things that will help humanity in the future.
Latha Chandran MD, MPH
Vice Dean for Academic and Faculty Affairs
Distinguished Teaching Professor
Renaissance School of Medicine