A Message from Dr. Hull on the Current Pandemic

We continue evolve in the face of this crisis. This crisis is changing us. We are frightened for our families and for ourselves. Our professional practice looks nothing like it did several months ago. We wonder when it will be safe to go back to “normal” and what that will look like. Will we be wearing masks? How long will it be until we are comfortable in a crowd? Will we wear gloves when we fly? Will we ever shake hands again in greeting or to seal a commitment?
I support the need for social distancing, but I hate that term. Rather, we are physical distancing. I urge all of you to be more social with your devices—texts, tweets, emails, calls, videos—to connect with family, friends, and colleagues. This will help everyone get through this isolating time.
Our surgical practice will also never be the same. Virtual visits are most likely here to stay and had a huge boost in implementation with this crisis. How do we document? Do we get paid? What platform do we use? How do we manage if we do not have a huge IT team from a center supporting us? On April 22, Drs. Eric Haas and Sarah Vogler will lead a discussion on this very topic. More details to follow.
In keeping with our updates, on April 26, we will have our next webinar looking at the impact of COVID-19 on New York, New Orleans, what the government is doing for the private practice surgeon, and how we cope emotionally. How do we start up again? There are members who are actively studying this and we will ask them for their thoughts.
Unfortunately, this pandemic is not going away anytime soon. In May, we will have a webinar about laparoscopic surgery in the era of COVID-19. More details to follow.
I asked our Social Media Committee (under Sean Langenfeld) to ask some questions on our Facebook page which I am sharing with everyone. As I read them, I realize we all have the very similar concerns and fear. Thanks to those brave enough to answer the questions. These are shared below.
Finally, we will get through this. Every time I hear of one of our members or family member who was COVID-19 positive, my stomach turns. I can see that this is changing me, and I am not even on the front lines. Be social, reach out to your friends and family. Don’t give up hope.

From the Community

Yosi Nasseri (Private Practice | Los Angeles, CA) — In LA, things gave been shut down for a while. Our office is open. One office staff member has COVID-19 (at home, quarantined). Few emergency surgeries (even those have significantly slowed down). We have to justify doing cancer cases. Worried about infecting my two munchkins and my pregnant wife. But practicing crazy precautions. Just celebrated Passover with wife and kids, a bit sad but made the most of it. Trying to focus on catching up with research, writing papers, and loooooooots of family time.
Sean Langenfeld (Academic Practice | Omaha, NE) — In Omaha, we obviously have some COVID-19 patients, but the fear of the future is heavy. I continue to see "emergent" CRS cases, but our division is fractured, and I've been redeployed to emergency general surgery to free trauma surgeons up for the ICU. I do fear infecting my family, but I'm still living at home with a very elaborate and MacGuyver-esque approach to disinfecting when I get home.
Lisa McLemore (Kaiser | LA, CA) — Walking / exercising more to cope (but eating more too, so that’s a wash). Redeployed to ACS currently... ED & ICU deployment plans in place, but not started yet. Clinic changed to 100% telephone visits... MDT clinic, still seeing a few patients that need exams before formulating management recs & starting treatment. Postponed surgeries being ranked by order of need to resume elective cases once the threat lowers. Surprises - many patients actually deferring their own care / evaluation as they are fearful of coming into hospital. No postponed cases with angry patients & just the opposite (thankful / grateful that we’re still going to work). Bonus - commute in LA is now awesome 😎
Daniel Popowich (Hospital-employed | NYC) What “scares” me the most is how unprepared we were. Complacent and believed this would be no more than any other “infectious” scare somewhere in the world. In NY, this is a huge problem (not taking away from anywhere else, just high numbers). Where I live is where NY pt zero came from. Teachers in one of my sons school tested positive weeks before there was a huge alarm in the state. My hospital census (which is nearly 100% full at all times) is more than 80% COVID positive. Over 200 staff out of around 600 who have been tested, have been COVID positive. I miss operating. It is heart breaking to do virtual visits or in office visits and tell patients how long they may have to wait for surgery. What I do know is what we all feel. We want things to go back to “normal” ASAP.
Anonymous — I may have met my match for the first time with COVID. Living with uncertainty everywhere it not compatible with the surgeon’s personality! Personally, I was sick. For a surgeon to admit to being sick, you know they are really sick. In bed for weeks, crazy high fevers, just sweating, sleeping, and coughing. No voice from the rough cough. Unable to reach out for social support with said voice and physically distanced from family for fear of getting them sick. I normally run marathons. I couldn’t even walk to the bathroom. There were terrifying thoughts on it. I was going to die? If I should go to the hospital, the place that made me sick from exposure? If I should tell my family I really wasn’t ok? They couldn’t be near me anyway; it would only scare them. Luckily on the mend and back to work.