There is, rightfully, a lot of discussion about the heroic efforts of those on the front lines of caring for COVID-19 patients.  The entire healthcare and medical field, though, is in turmoil, including those whose practices and educations are on hold, with no end in sight, only so much they can do to help their colleagues, and no answers to what life will look like when this is over.

Our friend and colleague, Dr Bruce Gewertz, M.D., Surgeon in Chief at Cedars Sinai Health System, sent the following note to his people and he gave us permission to share it – it might be helpful to you and your teams:

Dear Colleagues,

These are tough times, an unfamiliar combination of a once in a lifetime health crisis coupled with enforced boredom. As surgeons, we are a critical part of the response yet what we do best – operative surgery – is not the most important part of that response. 

That said, we can and must soldier on and do what we do better than most – demonstrate leadership. Each one of you will find a way to do that consistent with your strengths and interests but here are a few thoughts.

Our patients are looking to us for comfort. They should be reassured that any urgent health issues, unrelated to the virus, will be addressed with speed and success. While elective procedures may be postponed, we will not let the delay impact their overall health; their care will be prioritized as soon as the worst of the virus related illnesses has passed.

Our residents see us as role models. We need to “walk the walk,” promoting a sense of optimism and equanimity. This will pass and we will learn from it.

As academic surgeons, we need to make something good from this. Sit down and write that paper or book chapter that you just haven’t had time for. Come up with a different way to stimulate learning in our residents even if our conferences are on hiatus.  Take one or two of them into your office for an informal teaching session during the down time.

Finally, our staff are looking for reassurance. Let them know how much you appreciate their showing up for work or supporting us from off-site. They so often go far beyond their job descriptions to help us do our jobs. 

We are a lot better off than others in understanding this threat. Thanks to all of you, this institution will meet the challenge.  

With respect and affection….

Bruce L. Gewertz, M.D.

Surgeon-in-Chief, Chair, Department of Surgery