Healthcare Professionals Bettering Humanity – Foster EMBA Students Making an Impact

EMBA voices from the healthcare frontlines! With 10% of UW Foster Executive MBA students working in healthcare – from front-line providers to research and allied roles – we share their raw perspective. We appreciate their service to the community, their tireless hours of work, and their impact on society. They embody a Foster tenet – working together to better humanity.

Recognizing how eager we all are to turn the page on the pandemic, we reached out and asked our healthcare students to describe what their 2020 lives have been like and how the Foster EMBA community can best support them. Here is their first installment:

It is incredibly challenging to put a mask on for 10-12 hours a day (dehydration and general feeling of exhaustion) and see 30 strangers each day. With each patient, I am taking a personal risk of being exposed to COVID. Patients are angry, scared, frustrated and tend to take that out on the physicians and my staff. They want to argue that they don’t think a mask is necessary. Trust me, if we didn’t need a mask we would all love to stop wearing them. My staff are working extra hard to provide a safe environment for patients. Patients are increasingly angry that we have to move them to a different time or location to try to spread patients out. And frustrated they cannot bring their spouse or friend in with them for their visit. Doctors are the punching bags for this pandemic. And this is all topped off with no or little compensation. In my group, physicians were not paid anything for 5 months.

In 20+ years, this is the least I’ve been in operating room. I usually consult in about 250-300 cases a year… We have been doing a lot remotely via face time etc. when we can. When this whole thing started I covered a procedure in pajamas via face time with a physician… They had an extra staff member dial in and handle the phone while we worked… That’s not always possible and we still go and cover procedures when we can or need to. I’ve honestly been lucky to be in this field. Companies like mine have kept everyone just based on the technical and clinical knowledge that’s needed… Surgery numbers for our one specialty are down and continue to fluctuate as healthcare systems try to maintain what’s going on… A lot of people are not as fortunate to have a job right now and it’s not lost on us.

COVID swab tests

While I am not actually a frontline worker, my work positions me to think about science communication, particularly biomedical research. In my work – pandemic or not – I aim to explain the scientific process. This has been particularly important to explain why scientific advice and guidance has changed during the pandemic. The pandemic has encouraged my colleagues and I to think about new ways to describe this process.
A(n)…analogy for how scientists’ work on the pandemic is like a game of Clue: scientists get new evidence, share it with another, and make decisions based only on the information they have at a given point in time. As time unfolds, so does more evidence, which will change the state of knowledge and potentially associated recommendations. Like in the game of clue, scientists’ work provides clues. The more work scientists do, the more clues we have and the clearer the picture becomes. This is something I like to share with non-scientists, especially to help them understand and gain trust in the scientific community.

2020 has definitely been a challenging year for healthcare. The biggest message I would say is healthcare has never been safer. With enhanced PPE such as N95/KN95/surgical masks, face shields, air purifiers, mouth rinses, pre-screening, temperature checks, etc., there is no doubt that hospitals and clinics are safer than ever. We have gone through so much change in the past 9 months that we will take some good out of this pandemic. We are appreciative for our health and our jobs… Science matters – everyone wear a mask!
…I feel safe going to work, treating my patients, and coming home to my family. If I didn’t feel it was safe to do so, I would stay home and advise my patients to do the same. I understand first responders don’t have that luxury and we appreciate everyone and their tireless efforts to get us through this pandemic.

I’m not exactly on the front lines… but I have seen the toll it is taking. I’ve been watching the way people are treated and screened for cancer change dramatically. My largest concern is the lack of screening. Breast and colorectal routine screening decreased 80% (!!!!!!) in the beginning of the pandemic and remains low. I’ll use any platform I can to remind people to not put off cancer screenings or getting something checked out that doesn’t seem normal. We have the best chance of fighting cancer if we find it early. I acknowledge the catastrophic affect the pandemic has had on everyone, in so many ways, but this is my soapbox. Please get screened. Please don’t wait.

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