Community Will Get Us Through This
If you have been reading this column over the past few months, you know that I have been discussing Principle-Centered Medicine (PCM), the overarching paradigm that guides us in our practice of osteopathic internal medicine and epitomizes the ideals that drove us to become physicians in the first place. There are four pillars of this ideal: education, leadership, health and wellness, and community.
COVID-19 gives us a great opportunity to talk about community.
Once upon a time, a generation ago, most physicians were independent practitioners, small businesspersons (and in those days, mostly men). Of course, that has all changed. One generation had to learn to give up the reins in changing times, and the next had to learn that medicine is a team sport. And life goes on.
The nature of the team sport that is modern medicine has been repeatedly reconceptualized over the past few decades. Along the way, it has had to respond to public health challenges that have demanded rethinking and redefining what it means to be a physician—the outbreak of HIV/AIDS, the Ebola epidemic, and now COVID-19.
We are all being inundated with stories and images of the surging pandemic and its social consequences: empty shelves, hoarding toilet paper, kids (young adults?) partying like they have nothing to do with the potential spread of disease. Some politicians are seeking partisan edges by disseminating misinformation at the expense of all of us. There are alternating waves of inappropriate fear and inappropriate nonchalance in the air. And yet, the science we have is pretty clear, and our knowledge and understanding of the situation are growing rapidly.
As we all know, care for those with the disease itself is mostly supportive. Prevention is paramount, and one of the most important tools for prevention is “social distancing,” a new term in the public health lexicon. At the same time, the medical community has come together—public health officials, physicians, all practitioners—to care for and comfort our people, all of them. Providers, patients, populations of every stripe can come together for the benefit of all.
One of the great distinctions between approaching this pandemic from a political perspective versus a medical/public health perspective is this: Politicians are trying to tell us how to feel. “Don’t panic,” or “It’s someone else’s responsibility,”
or “The sky is falling and now is the time to panic.” All of that is nonsense. On the other hand, our community of medicine (the greater community, including public health and other providers) conveys the message of what to do to preserve and protect health, and to care and comfort those who have been stricken.
There is irony in the idea that all sectors of the medical community are coming together and joining with the greater population at the same time that we practice social distancing as one of our preventive tools. We embrace that irony.
I know I am preaching to the choir. We are in this together. That’s what community is all about. The medical community is providing the leadership that can pull our greater American community together. That’s how we will get through this.
Sam Snyder, DO, FACOI