Where have all the doctors gone?

I never thought about the effect on medical education that COVID might have.

Dr. Richard Raymond

September 12, 2020

4 Min Read
Where have all the doctors gone?

Where have all the doctors done? Well, not to graveyards, everyone. But the question is: "How will they ever learn?”

Thank you Peter, Paul and Mary.

I just read the UNMC (University of Nebraska Medical Center) Alumni Quarterly News and it was a wakeup call.

Sitting out here and fully retired (at least mostly retired) I never thought about the effect on medical education that COVID might have.

UNMC sent all its medical students packing, at least those who were upper classmen and women who were on hospital rotations for their third and fourth years. They became virtual students.

How can you learn to do a spinal tap, apply forceps to a baby’s head when its heart rate slows down to a dangerous level or set a broken arm when you are not allowed to be in the hospital?

To bring it even closer to home, I read that the ACGME (American Council on Graduate Medical Education) has ruled that there can be no in-person interviews for residency positions. All must be virtual. Just like college athletics.

I established a Family Practice Residency program for Clarkson Hospital in Omaha in 1990. I took great pride in recruiting the best Senior Medical Students to join our program for their next three years of training.

I cannot imagine the difficulty in trying to express what that program could do for a medical student via Zoom or whatever they are using. We spent a dinner and then a full day with each prospect.

How will they ever learn?

What does this have to do with food safety? More than you might think.

Because of the stress and pressure of the COVID pandemic, at last count 22 state and county health directors had resigned. Quit because they were being harassed and threatened because of policies they were implementing or supporting, and being harassed for sexual orientation, religious preferences, race and gender.

These are the health care professionals that were experts in protecting the public’s health from COVID-19, doing contact tracing, planning vaccination priorities and clinics and educating their citizens on how to protect themselves.

They were also the ones who investigated the source and cause of foodborne illness outbreaks, protecting yours and my health. Now rookies are doing those tasks.

Where have all those doctors gone? And who was found to replace them under these conditions?

One of my golfing buddies still practices half time in an Urgent Care Center out here in northeast Colorado. (His dad practiced family medicine just 50 miles west of me when I was in O’Neill, Neb.).

He left today for a wedding in Minnesota. I asked him if he had heard about the outbreak of COVID linked to a wedding in Maine and wasn’t he worried?

He said sure, but that same day he had examined six patients with COVID symptoms and tested them for the virus. He will very soon prematurely leave his practice and fully retire. Who will take his place?

I have two friends in Nebraska that are family practitioners. They recently sent a letter to their patients telling them not to worry about COVID, stating that it was not as bad as the media made it out to be, and going so far as to say that they had cured everyone with the virus with a combination of hydroxychloroquine, zinc and Remdesivir at a mere $3,000 per patient.

After the President’s claim that hydroxychloroquine was a miracle drug its sales increased 80% in March. After the Food & Drug Administration said it was killing people with cardiac side effects and not effective for COVID, sales fell precipitously.

Where have all the Doctors gone? Gone to political posturing? 

Do we see Dr. Tony Fauci on a regular basis anymore? No.

Where has the doctor gone?

Instead we hear from Scott Atlas, MD, a neuroradiologist who does not even see patients, who is now the White House Medical Advisor. Atlas has suggested we need to relax restrictions and let this virus enter the mainstream of society to develop “herd Immunity.”

That just might shut down most of the packing plants in this country because a majority of employees might become infected.

Where have all the doctors gone? 

They are going into politically safe havens, and not doing what they were trained to do because of the stress created by doing the right thing.

I’ve been there. I had a major food company go personally to the President and tell him to fire me. It’s not fun. I don’t blame them for leaving and finding safer quarters. I just miss them and their expertise and I hope their absence does not make this whole storm worse.

OK, you might have guessed by now that I am in a really crummy mood.

Because of COVID I have not left the relative safety of Larimer County, Colorado.

We have cities burning because of race riots.

In addition, we have a forest fire burning for weeks just west of town in the Poudre River Canyon that creates a smoke plume that darkens the skies and deposits ash on my driveway and the golf course greens.

It jumped the fire line yesterday.

And today it is snowing.

We went from the hottest summer on record to winter in one day.

You want to help us out of this mess? Get your flu shot.

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