Coming home after my first experience as the designated pediatrician for the respiratory “droplet clinic” in the COVID-19 world in which we now live, just after a spring break that was not meant to be, is not something I will soon forget. I remember taking my shoes off outside my back door and once inside, putting my scrubs in the washing machine, washing my hands meticulously, making my way to the shower without touching the surfaces of my house or my meal-demanding children, and breathing a sigh of relief as I walked out of the steam cloud of the bathroom.
That morning, I had woken up with mixed emotions, somewhat energized that I could finally contribute my training and expertise to this crisis, caring for children and families who need me. But also realizing that in doing so, I could be exposing my own family to risks they might not have otherwise encountered. I don’t practice in an emergency setting or an intensive care setting. My patients are children, most of whom don’t experience the worst of what COVID-19 has to offer. I only practice for 10 percent of my working time, working for the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation for the other 90 percent, so I can only imagine the amplification of these feelings for other front-line healthcare workers who are engaged in this battle more intensively.
Part of the work I do with the foundation is working with the medical community right here in Central Texas. That includes places where many families in our community get their medical care — the clinics of Dell Medical School, our local federally qualified health centers, Dell Seton Medical Center, and Dell Children’s Medical Center — all of which house so many of these exceptional people, those who are working on the front lines of detecting and combating this virus.
- Doctors who are treating sick patients day and night, aware of the risks of exposure if they’re not adequately protected.
- Nurses who are working double shifts to be with patients whose families cannot come to the hospital to see them because they might become infected.
- Technicians who show up every day to support patient care — from patient transport to respiratory therapy to diagnostic imaging. All of it to stop and slow this virus and its devastation.
- Medical school students who may never have contemplated treating patients for a virus like coronavirus and now find themselves learning in real time how to be of service in this pivotal moment.
- The many people who work in the hospital cafeterias, taking care of those treating patients by ensuring they are fed and well-nourished.
- The people who clean and disinfect the hospitals to ensure the safety of every patient and employee who enters the building for any reason.
Here in Austin and across the country, we are seeing the contributions of these amazing people. Front-line healthcare workers and support staff are heroes. Full stop. No question. Doing what they have been trained to do. Leaning in when we need them most, even at grave risk to themselves and their families.
One of the best ways to thank these heroes among us is by finding ways to unite globally to fight this virus. Nationally, the foundation’s new partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation supporting the COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator is laser-focused on identifying interventions that could be effective in treating and stopping the spread of the virus. It is a unique opportunity for all of us to come together across science and medicine for the good of the world. No small feat, and we are incredibly grateful to all the people putting their energy, talents, and resources toward this effort.
There are more heroes among us, of course. As a global foundation, we hear the stories of so many people and organizations who have nimbly pivoted their work and activities to support struggling families and hard-hit communities across the geographies in which we work. Moments of humanism and heroism big and small, profound and ordinary, that are all around us. But they deserve their own recognition, so please stay tuned as we feature these amazing people and their impact.
For now, thank you to the front line — for the brave and selfless care you provide every day.
If you have a request for funding that is related to COVID-19, please know that we are committed to fighting this pandemic and its subsequent economic fallout. Our immediate available funding has gone to accelerating the development of therapies, increasing the supply of PPE in Texas, stabilizing small business, and assisting our portfolio of current partners.