National Doctors’ Day

This Letter to the Editor appeared in The Palm Beach Post on March 29, 2020:

When a healthcare crisis upends our lives, the care of a trusted physician is valuable beyond measure. Now, with COVID-19, physicians are putting themselves at risk without hesitation to save lives, provide testing and reassure patients.

On Monday, National Doctors’ Day, there’s no better time for us all to say thank you.

Tim Stapleton, Florida Medical Association

The doctors and nurses at OLVG Hospital in Amsterdam who saved my life and got me back on my feet over three months last year are now arming for the coronavirus onslaught. Here is what one of them wrote me recently:

It’s a strange and especially unreal situation. Amsterdam is deserted and you know how crowded it can be! I work a lot now, and the pressure is high. All hospital staff are to be available at all times. There is a great sense of togetherness among the nurses and doctors in the OLVG. We will fight this successfully!!!!

AB, Nurse, OLVG7A

The doctors and nurses at the University of Florida Shands Hospital who cleared me to return to our house are girding up for the same battle. Our daughter, a health psychology intern at Shands, is providing support to both patients and staff via telemedicine.

Thank you, Medicare, Medicaid, and private health insurance, for leaping forward this past week to pay for Zoom-facilitated medical appointments. Thank you, Zoom, for being the glue that is helping families and neighborhoods and whole populations to stay connected. Click here to sign up to this free app. Thank you, the world’s medical community, for being in the front lines every day.

Here’s what today’s CBS Sunday Morning Lee Cowan had to say today about doctors, our front line defenders.

We give a nod of gratitude to those bound by an ancient document, with a very modern purpose:  the Hippocratic Oath. It’s a contract more than 2,000 years old, and while it’s evolved over the millennia, it’s perhaps more sacred than ever, especially now that we’re mired in a health crisis that Hippocrates himself could only have feared. One modern version of the oath reads in part: “I will remember that there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon’s knife or the chemist’s drug.”

Today there is no “chemist’s drug” to fight the coronavirus (not yet, anyway), and on top of that, masks, gowns and gloves – those paper-thin barriers between sickness and health – are in impossibly high demand, which makes the oath’s “warmth, care and understanding” promise dangerous to keep.

Our exhausted doctors and nurses are often forced to re-use masks; some are simply going without. That may soon leave many of our healthcare workers unprotected, charging up this viral hill every day, knowing they may die on it.

It’s becoming increasingly possible that the physician you have today could be another physician’s patient tomorrow. There is no greater calling than tending to the sick and suffering. But it doesn’t require an oath; what it requires is courage, selflessness and compassion, all traits seemingly in ample supply in our medical community, thank goodness.

Because these are the souls who are our best hope.

Lee Cowan, CBS Sunday Morning, March 29, 2020
Andy Marlette, Pensacola News Journal