Thursday, April 23, 2020

I Miss Seeing Our Volunteers

As we celebrate National Volunteer Week (April 19-25) and Volunteer Appreciation Day (April 20), I want to thank our volunteers who have selflessly donated their time and talent to our healthcare system.

Our volunteers have not been onsite because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis and we are getting by without them only because we are serving fewer patients in the hospital. On a typical day they are directing patients to where they need to go, serving people with a smile in the gift shop, and helping throughout the campus and at Gilchrist.

Each of our volunteers has their own special talents that they use freely to help us deliver health, healing and hope to their community. I want them all to know how much we value their efforts and how much we miss them. I look forward to seeing them again, hopefully soon.

This week is also Medical Laboratory Professionals Week (April 18-25) and for over a month now, our medical laboratory professionals and pathologists have focused on preparing samples, running tests, and helping identify COVID-19 cases. Our laboratory is full of unsung heroes. Their work is critical to our mission, but often forgotten. We are so fortunate to have the most highly reliable laboratory that I have ever seen, and I want to thank its leaders, Robert Palermo, MD, and Janis Smith. We are blessed with outstanding pathologists, technologists, technicians, phlebotomists, managers, administrative personnel, and others on the team. I want to extend my sincere thanks and appreciation for the work they do behind the scenes to drive us towards our vision.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. GBMC’s Sexual Assault Forensic Examination (SAFE) and Domestic Violence (DV) Program does so much for our community, especially during the current pandemic.

Sexual assault and domestic violence patients not only get quality medical-forensic treatment but also receive much needed crisis intervention and safety planning. Under the leadership of, Laura Clary, BSN, RN, FNE-A/P, SANE-A, our SAFE & DV program is expanding in new directions as additional needs are identified. The pandemic has increased the risk of abuse as the crisis has created more stress and less opportunity for the victims to distance themselves from their abusers.
We want the community to know that our SAFE & DV Program is always available – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year – and our doors are open to those in need even during the COVID-19 pandemic.

To learn more on how our program continues to serve survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence, even during these times, please check out this video here that our marketing team put together.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Preparing for the Next Steps: Case Finding and Contact Tracing

Many people are asking me “When do you think that life will go back to normal?” They are getting tired of social distancing and not being able to do most of the things they enjoy. We must still be vigilant, wash our hands, and keep a safe distance from others, but it appears that the steps taken to control the coronavirus (COVID-19) have had a positive effect and the peak of the outbreak may not be as bad as was once thought. If this is the case, since our economy is suffering from these restrictions, the pressure will be on the Governor to let people go back to work.

However, lessening the restrictions is potentially dangerous unless we are prepared for the next steps. A few months ago, when COVID-19 first came to the United States, 100% of the population was susceptible to contracting the disease. Now, some have had the disease and survived and carry antibodies against the virus and are immune. Others have not been exposed and are still susceptible.

Since we have not had enough test kits available to test directly for the virus or to do blood testing for its antibodies, we really don’t know what percentage of the population is still susceptible. Since there still is no treatment or vaccine, lifting the restrictions could allow the virus to spread rapidly once again. We must be able to find each new case, quarantine the patient, and then identify his or her contacts and quarantine them as well.

This case finding and contact tracing is already done for other diseases by our local health departments. If a patient is identified as having syphilis, for example, they are reported to the health department, which then interviews the patient, identifies anyone who the patient may have transmitted the disease to, and contacts them as well. The contacts are tested and treated if they come back positive. This process will be more difficult with COVID-19 because it is very contagious and can be transmitted to a larger number of people.

Experts at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health released a paper entitled “A National Plan To Enable Comprehensive COVID-19 Case Finding and Contact Tracing in the U.S.” You may want to read this paper. It identifies the steps needed to create a system of case finding and contact tracing for the country and it gives an estimate of the costs associated with building such a system.

Over the next few weeks, the conversation will turn from the medical care of COVID-19 patients and the work of hospitals, to the next phase: the work of a revitalized public health system. Stay tuned.

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Creating More Wellness in this Time of Sickness

After I got home from work last night, I went for a run and I was really impressed with the number of people who were out walking or running in my neighborhood. I started to think that this might be another good thing to come out of the COVID-19 pandemic – a new push towards better overall health.

Behind frail elders, those with chronic diseases are at the second highest risk for death related to COVID-19. Unhealthy habits like smoking, overeating, and not exercising can cause conditions like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), obesity, and diabetes – now, more than ever, it’s critical to reduce these habits. Wouldn’t it be great if people took this as an opportunity to focus on their health as a whole?

Our “Virtual” Walk for a Great Cause
I want to thank everyone who participated in our fifth annual Walk a Mile in Their Shoes event. We had over 300 participants, who walked or ran 2,501.76 miles (three times our goal of 725 miles!), helping us to raise more than $67,500 for our Sexual Assault Forensic Examination (SAFE) and Domestic Violence program.

In response to the pandemic, we created a VIRTUAL version of this annual event. It is great to see that the support and participation from our community was even stronger than with the previous in-person events. COVID-19 did not deter people from shedding light on the extremely important issues of sexual assault and domestic violence in our community. I am grateful for their commitment to the cause even through this crisis. Walk a Mile in Their Shoes allows GBMC to provide the necessary services 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at no cost to our patients.

I want to thank the GBMC Foundation, our Volunteer Auxiliary, and all parties who virtually walked with us to make this year’s event a major success!

Thank you to our social workers
I want to extend my appreciation to our social workers who are doing so much during these challenging times. As COVID-19 continues to impact more individuals and communities, our social workers are working on the frontlines side-by-side with our clinicians to maintain preventative and treatment services for all of our patients. I have always been impressed by the resourcefulness and fortitude of this group and we are truly fortunate to have such a talented and hard-working group of social workers on our team.

Give a much-needed morale boost to your colleagues
Over the last several weeks, many members of the community have shared encouraging messages for our nurses, doctors and other members of our workforce on social media. I’m very appreciative of the community’s efforts to encourage our dedicated healthcare workers.

I want to extend the same opportunity to all the GBMC family who might be interested in sending along positive thoughts to their coworkers.

Remember we are all in this together! I hope you take advantage of this opportunity and click here to offer your words of encouragement to a colleague.

Happy Passover and Easter
As we learn to live with the challenges of sheltering in place and social distancing, I hope that many of you will still be able to maintain a part of your holiday traditions amid the COVID-19 pandemic. For those staff members working during their spring holiday, a special thank you for taking care of those who are ill during this time. I grateful for all of you. I want to offer my best wishes to everyone celebrating Passover and Easter.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Meeting the Needs of those with Chronic Disease During the Pandemic

It’s clear that people are heeding the call not to come to Emergency Departments (ED) with non-emergent needs during the COVID-19 pandemic. GBMC and the other ED’s in our area have seen around a 40% reduction in visits. Since people are also staying away from physician offices, we should be concerned that those with chronic disease may have needs that are currently not being met. GBMC Health Partners has made fabulous progress in improving the health of patients with diabetes, for example. How can we assure that these gains are not lost? Our nurse care managers and care coordinators have been reaching out to those with chronic disease on the phone and our providers have done more than 2,600 video visits over the last three weeks! What a great testament to our core competency of redesigning care to meet the needs of those we serve regardless of what comes our way.

Earlier this week, our Marketing Department coordinated three Facebook Live interviews, one of which included our Chief of Endocrinology, Dr. Ruth Horowitz. Dr. Horowitz provided some very important information for those with diabetes about why it’s important to take extra precautions during the COVID-19 outbreak. If you are interested, click here.

Walking for A Great Cause!

To follow social distancing guidelines and avoid bringing a large group of walkers together, we decided to do this year’s Walk a Mile in Their Shoes event VIRTUALLY.

Walk a Mile in Their Shoes, hosted by the GBMC Foundation and presented by the GBMC Volunteer Auxiliary, financially supports our Sexual Assault Forensic Examination (SAFE) and Domestic Violence (DV) Program. This event has continued to grow over the years and I am hopeful that, despite these unprecedented times, this year will be no different.

So, I ask everyone to walk or run a mile (or more) and to encourage their friends to do the same, anytime between now and Saturday, April 4, for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence. Our goal is to reach 725 virtual miles in recognition of the 725 patients who received help from the SAFE and DV Program in 2019. There are three simple steps to take:

1. Take a photo or video of yourself walking or running a mile (or more!)
2. Post the photo or video on any social media platform (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) - use hashtag #GBMCWalkaMile, tag GBMC HealthCare, or email so we can feature you!
3. Complete this form to let us know how many miles you walked/run so we can meet our goal of 725 miles. (And we’ll mail you a T-Shirt!)

We are so proud of our SAFE and DV program, and with your help, we can continue to be a leader in this area by serving those in need and educating the community.

If you’re interested in participating in our virtual walk or want to donate to our SAFE and DV program, it’s not too late. Please visit for further details.Thank you!

Doctor’s Day 2020

March 30th (this past Monday) was the annual Doctor’s Day. On this day we thank physicians for their commitment to serving those in need. I’m honored to recognize our doctors who, despite the risks that they face, continue to serve on the front lines to care for people and help to contain the spread of the coronavirus. The pandemic is taking an emotional toll on all, and that includes physicians. Healthcare workers across the country are sacrificing for others. If you are looking for ways to make a difference, please consider a donation to our HealthCare Workers Fund to support those on the front lines who are making these sacrifices to keep us safe. Thank you!