Medical Director, Sports Medicine, Mercy Health; and Medical Director, Toledo – Lucas County Health Department, Toledo, Ohio
“I’m a primary care sports medicine doctor with 40 high schools, colleges and organizations under my direction. I work for the United States Soccer Federation, too, when the national teams play in Ohio. And I see patients who have varying degrees of musculoskeletal problems. I have no background in public health. So, it came as a surprise to me on March 11 when I was asked if I wanted to serve as the county health department’s medical director. The role would take 10 hours a month—or so they said. … By March 13, I officially had the job. The next day, our county had its first COVID-19 case. … One of my first tasks was to cancel the Mercy Health Glass City Marathon, a premier event, after the CDC prohibited gatherings of more than 50 people. I’m medical director of the race, which usually has 10,000 runners and 25,000 spectators. Spring high school and college sports had to be cancelled as well. … I’m now working at least 70 hours a month on the county job. It’s the most challenging thing I’ve ever done. … There are three things you look for in a county health department medical director: previous work in public health (I had no experience); a master’s degree in public health (nope); a desire to practice medicine related to public health services (I never showed it). But I’ve now come to realize that my skill set as a sports medicine physician was grossly undervalued. I’m precise in my execution. I know how to set up protocols to protect people—how to prevent and treat injuries. … Within the first week, we had protocols to test first responders at their homes. We made recommendations for them about PPE use—what to wear and when to wear it to avoid exposure. We established infection control procedures at the county jail. Since early May, our jail has been COVID-free for two weeks. We haven’t had a first responder test positive in 12 days. We are protecting those who are protecting us. … To date, our county has had 1,806 cases and 165 deaths. We’ve plateaued, with about 30 new cases a day. The scary thing is that we don’t know if we have peaked yet. … We’ve started to open up in Ohio. I meet frequently with the Chamber of Commerce about how to do it safely. We are all under pressure. If you do too much, you’ll be faulted. You do too little, you’ll be faulted. I think it’s better to do too much than too little. … If we were in a baseball game, it feels like we’d be in the second inning. This isn’t over. It’s not going away. We’ve got to be smart and safe for our families and others. We have to stay on task; an uptick in cases could come about if we relax social distancing measures too quickly and too much. While we undoubtedly need to concentrate on issues such as soaring joblessness, we have to prepare for a second wave. We know it’s coming.”
As told to David McKay Wilson
May 7, 2020
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