by Stephanie Goodling
In the past weeks, members of the Lehigh Valley Jewish community have all had to adjust to the COVID-19 pandemic. The doctors in the Maimonides Society are no exception, with many of them experiencing the impact of the virus up close.
Dr. Bill Markson, president of the Maimonides Society, is vice president of medical affairs at St. Luke’s Lehighton. He spends most of his time in cardiology, and is not usually involved with emergency or critical care. With the current pandemic conditions, however, he, like many others, has been brushing up on his critical care procedures.
“In my role, every morning we have a daily hospital huddle regarding supplies and making sure we have proper masks and reviewing how we’re going to clean them, talking about the possible surge of patients, what rooms do we have to make available in COVID areas, COVID-possible areas and non-COVID areas,” said Markson.
In addition to his work with his team at the hospital, he has also been reaching out to the greater community, doing town hall TV zoom interviews for local news. And, of course, he is still managing his normal cardiology practice, but with a lighter load than usual.
“Weirdly, it’s kind of been very slow for a lot of the doctors. We’ve seen a huge change in how many patients we see by video and telephone, and probably all those things were inevitable, but within a week or two, everyone has adopted it very rapidly. It’s fascinating to me,” added Markson.
For Dr. Jonathan Trager, an emergency and critical care doctor with St. Luke’s who is currently one of the people in charge of creating those plans Markson reviews every day for possiblesurges, this has meant a new project to tackle. He has been helping other healthcare providers review emergency procedures in case they are called in to help with overflowing emergency rooms and intensive care units. In addition to his position with St. Luke’s, he is currently enrolled in training with the Air Force and has worked as a paramedic and in pre-hospital situations previously, experience which is proving useful during this trying time.
“I think the biggest challenge right now is that it’s a dynamic situation. There is a lot of information floating around as we are trying to determine the optimal modalities of treatment,” explained Trager.
Dr. Ryan Tenzer is in emergency medicine at Lehigh Valley Health Network, where he says they’re also “doing a great job of being prepared and taking care of our patients.”
Despite this crucial preparation, however, Tenzer emphasized that it is important for people not to get complacent as the new safeguards become routine.
“Just be very careful,” Tenzer advised. “We’re in this for the long haul.”
Another LVHN employee, Dr. Eric Young, is an infectious disease specialist, and he agrees that people should be taking this seriously.
“The majority of people who are infected get relatively mild disease, but some get very sick. People shouldn’t panic, but they should adhere to current social distancing strategies, particularly to protect our vulnerable populations such as the elderly,” said Young.
All of the doctors interviewed agreed that while the rest of the offices and hospital wings have gone quiet, the areas for those needing the most critical care have taken on a marked air of seriousness in the past month.
“I think the number one thing to tell everybody is worry about the things you can control and try not to fret about the things you can’t control,” summarized Trager. “Listen to the medical experts and hunker down, but don’t be afraid. It’s not going to be over quickly, so the best thing to do is just have situational awareness—know your environment, be prudent in the things you’re doing, don’t be lackadaisical. We will get through this, but it will take time.”
The Maimonides Society is open to health care workers who make a gift to the Jewish Federation of the Lehigh Valley’s Annual Campaign for Jewish Needs of $1,800 or more. To learn more about joining the Maimonides Society, visit www.jewishlehighvalley.org/maimonides or contact Aaron Gorodzinsky at firstname.lastname@example.org.