What’s up Doc?

Interview on COVID-19

by Celina Simmons

Recently, I was fortunate enough to get an interview with Larry Adrian, a Physician Assistant at the Preble Street Clinic, to talk a little bit about the current Coronavirus Pandemic and his experience at the clinic. I went in with just a few blanket questions, but Adrian had so much information that the interview almost took on a life of itself.

Adrian worked at Maine Med for over 30 years before he transitioned into the position he is in now at Preble Street. He also works in a small hospital for two to three months out of the year in Tanzania, a rural country in East Africa that borders Uganda and Kenya. There, he does everything from surgery to basic med.

I asked him how his day-to-day routine has changed at the Preble Street Clinic since the outbreak, and to my surprise, he said it was more mellow and quiet now than usual. Most days, before the pandemic, he would see more folks coming in with sprains or stomach bugs. Now, those people are staying away because of potential exposure to the virus. This led us to talking about how this will all affect the health industry as a whole afterwards.

For starters, Adrian believes that large waiting rooms will start being unnecessary, becoming only needed for physical injuries, like wounds and broken bones. If someone in a waiting room has a virus or sickness that spreads like COVID-19, it puts every other person in that room at risk of getting sick. He continued to explain how more doctors and hospitals will most likely start taking advantage of Zoom calls and “tele-medicine.” 

Tele-medicine was a topic in discussion prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, because there is a potential for big savings in it.  Another change he talked about was the need of Primary Care Physicians (PCP)- or the lack thereof. He explained how this could potentially dwindle down to just individual specialists if need be, predicting a transition to tele-medicine for the basic functionalities of a PCP.

With all of these technological advancements nearing, it’s hard not to wonder what could be lost because of it? Some people think of their PCP as a close-friend almost; somebody they can trust and be honest with face to face. With tele-medicine, that human connection and communication is gone, leaving us more disassociated. Tele-medicine is like most other great ideas: a double-edged sword. “The sharpest side wins and in this case, the sharpest side is the most cost effective,” Adrian concluded.

I personally wanted to know more about what was happening with testing right now because I was confused about why it was limited and how we (the U.S.) are obtaining them. He explained how there are primarily two different tests being used right now and neither are 100% accurate. One is the PCR test which is a swab test that can detect the active virus in the throat. The other is a Serum test that shows any antibodies in the blood. The latter can tell you if you had the virus before, been vaccinated, or are currently carrying the virus.

He told me that most of the confusion around testing has to do with not having one single test and the potential for inaccuracies, but also the number of healthcare systems operating in the U.S. With 50 different states and 50 different healthcare systems trying to obtain tests, the process to finding a solution is slow. Although the actual # of positive cases being broadcasted everywhere means nothing, the only way we can learn more about the virus is through testing.

I then asked him what he would say to a group of students right now with all of the uncertainty happening. “Stay awake. Keep your eyes open… Define your moral code in life to direct you,” he replied. I then redirected that question to a group of Nursing majors. “Your future is still bright. You will always have a job. Stay optimistic and stay on track,” he added in addition to what he had said before.

He urges everyone to stay informed and up-to-date on the world, which brought me to address the chaotic manner of the news and media right now. He noted the “parallel motive” of media sources with wanting to make a profit, and gave me a great list of reliable sources he likes to use, adding that it’s always important to not use just one source for your information. Some of the sources he mentioned were the CDC, World Health Organization, BBC, and John Hopkins. 

In the end, we concluded that the best thing to do for now is stay on track, stay educated, and practice social distancing. It is a fact that the virus spreads through coughing, exhaling, or intubating. With that, there are not many other solid facts to work with, so we should stick with what we know will at least help. 

Adrian was a delight to speak with and I hope this helped some of you get facts straightened out and some clarity in the chaos. If you have any questions about the pandemic, make sure you refer to a source you can trust. SMCC has provided helpful links to such sources on the student app and the student portal. If you’re feeling too overwhelmed by everything, which is completely normal and common right now, reach out to your advisor with your concerns. SMCC is determined to help you succeed.


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