Rebecca B. Hemphill, MD, FACP, ACP Governor
My patient had been having increasing shortness of breath for over 2 weeks. She had not had any fever, headache or change in taste or smell, so she and her husband didn't think it could be COVID. That was all that they were worried about, so they thought she was OK. When the shortness of breath seemed to get worse and she developed some lower extremity edema, she finally called the office and was seen. She was in new heart failure, and is currently in the hospital getting worked up. This is one of my first patients who appear to be part of WAVE 2 in the graph below, that group of patients who are so focused on COVID, social distancing and staying away from healthcare facilities where COVID might be, and with perceived challenges to getting to see their doctor, they are delaying important non-COVID care.
As many of us are now making plans for reopening our practices and resuming some of our pre-COVID activities and procedures in our hospitals, we also must anticipate and mitigate the impact that the pandemic has on all of our patients. In addition to reaching out to our patients with chronic conditions to reassess their diabetes, depression and hypertension control, we also need to be acutely aware of the emotional and financial impact that COVID19 has had on our patients and their families and communities and help connect patients with the resources that they need. These are the third and fourth waves of the footprint that this pandemic will have. Now more than ever, our patients need us.
As we move into this next phase of the pandemic, not only are we continuing to learn about the disease that is COVID19 and hoping for new treatments to become available, we must resume our focus on all of our patients and the myriad of other issues that we deal with on a daily basis. (note that I didn't mention a vaccine – that still feels very far away). I continue to be thankful that I have ACP as my professional home to help support and guide us. ACP has been instrumental in its Advocacy work, successfully advocating for the rapid changes that have occurred in supporting our transition to telehealth. We must now assess if each patient can follow up with us via telehealth (either video or phone), or if they really do need to come into the office. I have come to realize how much we can actually do via telehealth, though must learn the new skills of establishing rapport with a patient on the screen rather than in the exam room. ACP has provided us with valuable COVID19 resources, including resources for managing practices during this time, how to do telehealth and importantly the physicians' guide to COVID, which brings together all the up to date knowledge about the diagnosis, testing and care for patients with this disease. I would encourage you to visit the site regularly if you don't already. See below for helpful links.
Also, a few words on what our Chapter has been up to. As much as I would like to say that I will see you in Bar Harbor in September for our annual Chapter Meeting, we are facing the reality of the situation and needing to make plans for a virtual meeting as an alternative. We are early in that process, and will update you as our Chapter Meeting Planning Committee reviews the options and makes some recommendations. In addition, the experience that we are all having with virtual meetings does open up additional possibilities for us coming together more, where geography has been a historical barrier. We held our first Women in Medicine get-together in early March in the Portland area, which was a great success, but a number of people were not able to attend. We also had sent out a survey in early March to our International Medical Graduates to try to understand how our Chapter can better serve them. These are a couple of examples where we can plan virtual get-togethers in the coming months, for support, education and socializing - all important roles that our chapter can play.
Finally, as the academic year comes to this unusual end, we congratulate all of the medical students from UNE and Tufts Maine Track who will be graduating from medical school and moving on to their Internships and Residencies, and are especially excited about those students who have chosen a career in Internal Medicine. We also celebrate the graduating Internal Medicine residents at Maine Medical Center who are moving on to the next phase of their careers, whether it is specialty fellowship or practice in either Hospital Medicine or General Medicine.
Panel Discussion for Medical Students on Rotation and Residency Planning, led by Hannah Martin (Tufts Maine Track) and Cindy Chu (UNE)
Women in Medicine event: Chapter members Karen Heard, MD, Zhyldyz Kabaeva, MD, Nancy Allen, MD and Gineen Cudjoe, MBBS, MD
This is certainly not the usual chapter newsletter. It is, however, an attempt to reach out to all of you - I continue to think about how this pandemic has touched all of us, and am thankful for the community and support that my colleagues and the ACP Chapter has provided during this unprecedented time. I encourage each of you to reach out to your friends and colleagues who you may not have heard from for a while - just to say ‘hello, how are you?’ It is those connections that will continue to maintain us during this trying time.
“So in an environment like this, simply reaching out to others to check on them, simply giving them the gift of our attention and our presence, can be acts of service that ultimately strengthen our connection to others”.
Dr Vivek Murthy, former U.S. Surgeon General
Stay well, and stay safe.
Rebecca Hemphill, MD, FACP
Governor, Maine Chapter ACP
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