Mordechai Sacks, PA-C: Meeting the Moment
March 20, 2020
“Ten or so weeks back, I was starting my final term of the DMSc and studying Global Health and Disaster Medicine. As I was hearing little bits of news of a novel virus in China, I was simultaneously learning about how we are supposed to plan for such things, and how devastating not planning would be.
There was a moment, early in the term, where I began to realize with certainty that the novel virus was going to wind up in the U.S. and that we were wholly unprepared. I began telling my wife, my boss, my medical assistants and front desk, but no one seemed slightly phased by it. I ordered more masks for the office, but a modest amount so I wouldn’t look completely insane, and I began to stock my house with items we would need to survive a siege.
It wasn’t lost on me that what I was studying was perfectly in tune with what I was thinking, and I surely wondered many times if I was allowing my imagination to get the better of me. Nonetheless, as the weeks went on, and the news from China grew more grim, I became more convinced and more diligent with my own preparedness and had to put my faith in our government.
The DMSc has taken my knowledge and education to a whole new level of understanding. And, 100%, I would not have been as prepared for this current situation without the Global Health and Disaster Medicine course taught by Dr. Watkins. I saw what was happening in Wuhan, and we studied the models, and knew what was going to happen here. As a country in general, we were not prepared for this.
After the first cases of what we now know as Covid-19 began to pop up in Washington, it became clear to me that there was no escape, but I still had assumed we had more time. Within a day or two, the news broke that a 50-year-old man was in critical condition in a NY hospital, and that this was not connected to any travel. Here we were looking at a home-grown case of the novel coronavirus. Within an hour or two, my phone began to ring relentlessly. Not only was this case in New York, but it was a half-mile from my home, and a mile from my PA practice.
The hospital where the patient had been for four days was the same hospital where I sent my patients; many of my patients also work there. Within hours, I learned that more than 100 people were quarantined due to having had contact with this patient, including teachers at my children’s school.
Since then, my life has not been the same. My kids have been out of school and are stir crazy. My friends and neighbors that I had previously warned about this now assume I know a thing or two and call me all day with questions and anxieties. My 3000+ patients are also very anxious and have been in contact non-stop. Work and this virus have completely consumed my life for the last two weeks, to the extent that I have feared I would not be able to complete the DMSc. Faculty have been so supportive and understanding during this time.
We have been working 10 to 12 hours each day, including fielding calls, and even some office hours late at night and on the weekends. The extra 100 masks I had purchased are gone. We finally reached the point this week where it seemed unsafe to continue to see patients in the office due to lack of protective equipment. We have switched to 100% telemedicine, and currently I feel like we are in a holding pattern.
It’s hard to realize that what is currently happening here in New York, how things have come to a standstill, is not necessarily the norm nationwide. If I had to guess what the future holds, I think the CDC’s estimates are likely accurate. I find the data from Italy and France concerning, but I also recognize that in the US we have something that those countries do not have. We have 140,000 PAs trained broadly in all fields of medicine with the lateral mobility to shift to work in areas of need. If there is a need for thousands of more critical care providers, PAs working in the ED can help fill some of those gaps. The now short-staffed EDs can pull PAs from primary care or family practice to provide urgent and emergent care. The PAs working in dermatology and other non-essential fields can help fill in at the family practice level, refilling medications and providing simple ambulatory care. As a profession, we are perfectly suited to be the difference makers.”