Healthcare: Meet a Pediatrician in King County, WA
Interviewer: Lillian Huang; June 18, 2020
Interviewee's name has been removed for privacy.
Pediatricians are doctors who ensure the physical, emotional, and social well-being of children (HealthyChildren.org)
Could you tell us about yourself and your occupation? How does your occupation impact the local community?
I am a local pediatrician based on the Eastside, primarily working in an outpatient clinic setting but also taking care of pediatric patients who are hospitalized. My partners and I are invested in the health and well-being of the youngest in our community, monitoring their development and growth, and their physical and mental health. We are strong advocates for preventative measures, e.g., protection against vaccine-preventable illnesses, and strive to diagnose and treat illnesses and diseases early in their course.
How has COVID-19 affected the functioning of your organization? What worries you most regarding the effect COVID-19 has/will have on your occupation?
COVID-19 shocked us to the core. Mainly we were concerned how this virus would affect our patients; the relief was palpable when we realized that children and teens had the lowest risk of death and morbidity of all age groups. Our business was impacted when parents were afraid to bring their children to our offices out of fear of contracting the virus. Because of this, we needed to reduce our hours of operation and layoff staff. Moreover, we rapidly restructured our way of seeing patients by incorporating telemedicine, and by segregating well patients from potentially sick ones into different clinics.
"... parents were afraid to bring their children to our offices out of fear of contracting the virus. Because of this, we needed to reduce our hours of operation and layoff staff."
I am worried that we will see an increase in vaccine-preventable illnesses such as measles or pertussis (whooping cough), because parents are delaying wellness visits (when vaccines are typically given) out of concern for getting exposed to this virus. In addition, I am troubled over the impact that social distancing and school closures will have on children’s and teens’ mental health, specifically, a rise in anxiety and depression.
Pediatricians work with youth of all ages, from infants to young adults (Connecticut Children's).
If you are willing to share, how has COVID-19 affected you individually and your family?
Honestly, I was quite fearful of this virus, mainly for myself and my husband (less so for my children). Being trained in medicine, having worked in labs, and believing in the strength of good research and data, I find comfort when I see all the progress researchers and epidemiologists are making in understanding the complexities of this unique virus and in discovering therapies to decrease the morbidity and mortality of COVID-19. Initially it was difficult to adjust to the stay-at-home orders, but over time it became our new normal. I think it would have been much more difficult if I had young children or could no longer work.
"... this outbreak is far from over and will possibly get worse this winter."
What is the greatest lesson we can learn from this outbreak?
I don’t think there is one lesson, especially since this outbreak is far from over and will possibly get worse this winter. I trust the scientists and epidemiologists to guide us. This is a difficult question to answer without the risk of sounding political in our present atmosphere. Decades ago my response likely would not have been interpreted so, as I do believe the recommendations from the leaders in our scientific and medical communities were more highly regarded and respected by those in power, who probably would have acted with greater speed and force to prevent this epidemic from getting to the point we are today.