By Skand Shekhar, MD
Skand Shekhar, MD
“Please reschedule all clinic patients” is the message that marked the beginning of a transition for us in early March, when the NIH decided, rightly so, to postpone all elective patients. Much has changed since then—COVID-19 has been declared a pandemic, more than a million people have been infected, and a third of humanity has stayed home.
As a physician, this has been a unique, once-in-a-lifetime circumstance, reminiscent of ominous plagues that we read about in medical school and a stark reminder of the limitations of modern medicine. As a postdoctoral trainee, it has presented other challenges. Many of us feel increasingly lonely with our families being far way. Some of us are scrambling to meet stringent deadlines for manuscript and grant submissions. And others have simply had to shut shop at their wet labs.
However, we have also gained many skills that have allowed us to effectively tackle these challenges. We are learning and adapting to a fully virtual environment—daily meetings occur via teleconference; literature reviews continue to take place online; and all personal and professional interactions occur electronically. Patient care has been continued via email, and medications have been mailed from the NIH pharmacy. Our fellowship program has arranged online didactics with wide faculty participation, and we get regular reassuring emails and updates from the desks of NICHD and NIH directors. Many of us have volunteered our names to serve, inspired by the strong yet humble scientific leadership of Drs. Francis Collins and Anthony Fauci.
New research opportunities have presented themselves too. For example, I have been given the opportunity to collaborate with colleagues across the globe on projects investigating the relation between endocrine disorders and COVID-191, which not only contributes to the global COVID-19 effort but also enhances my knowledge of research techniques.
As we pray for those affected and our frontline workforce, it is important to remember that this too will get behind us, just like Ebola, H1N1 and Spanish flu did. What should remain is the memory of the lessons we learn. We will have clearer skies and brighter tomorrows at the “National Institutes of Hope.”
- Shekhar S and Hannah-Shmouni F. (2020). "Hookah smoking and COVID-19: Call for Action." Canadian Medical Association Journal 192(17):E462. doi: 10.1503/cmaj.75332.