Everyday Heroes: Trinity Graduates on the Front Line of the COVID -19 Health Crisis

Closeup of a doctor looking at a covid test in hands

While we are all glued to the TV watching our nightly news trying to get the latest COVID-19 updates. We thought we would reach out to our alumni, that are preparing to fight this virus head-on and share their stories with you. We know that Trinity graduates are difference-makers in every setting, possessing a level of commitment and service to their communities that leaves us humbled. They truly are everyday heroes.

Leonard Genovese, MD

What has your hospital, clinic, office, and or practice done to make sure the demands of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic are being met?

“I practice in northern Virginia, which has yet to experience the full force of this pandemic, but our hospital has already proactively been trying to limit Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) use to save as much as possible for the upcoming wave of patients. In our ICUs, we have been trying to hold beds open for emergency COVID patient arrivals, if possible. Additionally, our administrative team has been working tirelessly to develop protocols for every possible scenario, learning as many lessons as we can from the outbreak in NYC.”

Do you have enough space and equipment needed to address the adequate level of care for your existing patients and patients who either present or have the COVID-19 virus?

“Our administration thus far has done a great job getting inventory and limiting PPE to patient care providers when needed.  Thus far, I have not experienced a lack of equipment when needed. Though there is some degree of ‘rationing’ in the real sense of the word, it feels that we have what we need for now.”

What is your area of expertise, and how does it relate to the COVID-19 pandemic?

“I am a cardiology fellow.  Approximately 20% of COVID patients are presenting with myocarditis that either manifests as or mimics acute coronary syndromes to some degree.  We have several patients in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and one patient on Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) that we help manage along with the cardiac surgeons.  This month I am in the cardiac ICU, unfortunately just as our COVID-confirmed cases have started to double.”

Is telemedicine something you’re using more now, if so, do you find it to be a good way to interact with your patients?

“We are doing telemedicine office visits for most of our follow-up patients and new referrals that are relatively benign.  We are still doing in-person office visits for patients that require significant work-up or are relatively unstable. I feel that it is easier to interact with patients but harder on the back-end, meaning we have still yet to work out all the kinks in regards to documentation, billing, etc.”

How do you stay calm while reassuring patients who may be overwhelmed and or scared and even panicked?

“I have a 9-month-old son at home, so I come into work every day just as panicked and scared as all of the patients.  Most of the time, you just have to put your personal issues aside and change your mentality. I generally try to remind myself before I walk into a room that for most of these patients, this could very well be the worst day of their lives. They’re genuinely looking for help or for someone to ease a bit of their concerns.  It helps to try and reframe, to a patient’s perspective to block out personal feelings.”

How has this impacted you personally? Are you working around the clock? Away from your family more than ever?

The wave of the pandemic hasn’t yet hit northern Virginia, so work hasn’t been terribly different in terms of hours.  What it has done, though, is change my entire perception of my job. I have a decontamination area set up in my garage and I am significantly more mindful of washing hands and generally keeping more sterility around myself and my family.”

We all hear about practicing social distancing, do you have any tips or “out-of-the-box” ideas that you’d like to share?

“Personally, I’ve always been an avid triathlete, so my exercise routines haven’t changed all that much.  On the positive side, I have been using this time to Zoom with friends I haven’t seen in a while. For example, last week, we were able to have a happy hour over Zoom with some college friends that live all over the country.

Otherwise, I don’t really have too much out of the box.  It seems that sourdough bread making is a thing right now, as home improvement, exercise, Netflix, etc.  Stay sane as best you can.”

Did you ever think something like this could or would happen while you were studying at the Trinity School of Medicine?

“This is not something I’ve ever considered.  Though when I was in residency at (George Washington) GW, we were lucky enough to be able to rotate through National Institute of Allergy and Immunology (NIAID) at the National Institute of Health (NIH), so I’ve seen multi-drug resistant TB and other scary bugs and things.  It just always feels so distant that you never assume something like this could happen.”

Do you have any words of wisdom for current medical students who are watching this unfold?

“Stay the course.  Medicine is a long road, and a lot of the time, it feels that no one has any appreciation for what you do, but in times like these, it reminds us why we chose this vocation.”

When patients ask you how long this will last, what do you tell them?

“I tell them that almost all coronavirus infections abate to almost 0 in the warm weather.  I’m hoping that this particular strain follows suit. Does that mean we’ll be in store for another terrifying fall and winter next year?  Let’s hope not, but at least we’ll be ready.”

Is there anything you’d like to add?

“A lot of people ask, ‘is this really as bad as the media is making it out to be?’  I’d just like to say that even if the mortality rate of this virus is down to somewhere between 0.5 and 1% (which is below what the media outlets, in general, were quoting) that would still be the most deadly virus in over 100 years.  This needs to be taken seriously; listen to our healthcare professionals, social distancing, wash your hands, and stay inside unless you need to be out, or are exercising. There are a lot of people dying unnecessarily because of rationing care, we need to flatten this curve, so everyone gets the chance to live that they deserve.  EVERYONE GET THE FLU SHOT NEXT YEAR (and all other vaccines!).”


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