They need to practice an old-school mentality and be meticulous about every facet of prevention. We’ve all become so focused on turnover times and surgical throughput that some of the basic, tried-and-true protocols fall by the wayside. Technology has evolved and infections are rare — but they still happen. Let’s step back and look at how thorough we’re being with surface disinfection. Let’s make sure surgical attire is properly washed, providers remove jewelry before they enter the OR and hand hygiene is performed as often as possible.
How has COVID-19 altered health care and surgery?
One positive aspect that’s come out of this pandemic is that we’re all paying much closer attention to the little things. We’re wiping surfaces more often and washing our hands more frequently. We’re also masked all the time, something I hope continues well into the future — even after life looks more like it did pre-pandemic. I’d love to see some type of universal masking during flu season, because as we saw this year with the record-low number of cases that simple protocols work when everyone is following them. Finally, we’re seeing more people, including providers, staying home when they’re sick.
What are the benefits of the increased public visibility epidemiologists and infection preventionists received the past year?
The “Fauci Effect” has resulted in more people being interested in careers in medicine in general and in epidemiology and infection prevention specifically. This is wonderful news for my field because, before COVID-19, we were facing a shortage of infectious disease physicians. But thanks to the increased exposure of prominent epidemiologists like Dr. Fauci, we’re now experiencing an increase in applicants.
Tell us about your 2020 U.S. Open Tennis Championship experience.
When the pandemic hit, Mount Sinai Health System was asked to serve as the advisor on COVID-19 safety, and I was named to the advisory group. We had to find a way to ensure the event could be held safely. It was a high-pressure initiative that involved a ton of hard work, but it was also a wonderful experience. I was one of a select group of individuals who experienced this surreal, historic event in person. I got to stand six feet away from Serena Williams! It was intense; even physicians get starstruck. As a lifelong tennis fan, working at the U.S. Open was the adventure of a lifetime. I’m fortunate to have the opportunity to do it again this year — hopefully with some fans in the stands. OSM