Transformational Times
Words of Hope, Character & Resilience from our Virtual Community
Friday, May 1, 2020
In this Issue:

  1. Director's Corner by Adina Kalet, MD: Making a Difference: MaskUp
  2. Perspective from Libby Ellinas, MD: Women: Minding the Gap
  3. Perspective from Laura Mark, PA-C, MPH: Social Narrowing
  4. Reflections: How do you think someone from the past (famous or personal) would react to what's happening today?
  5. Take 3 from Rachel A. Schlaak, PhD Student, Pharmacology & Toxicology
  6. Announcements | Resources | Ways You Can Help
Director's Corner
Making a Difference in the Community: MaskUpMKE
by Adina Kalet, MD, MPH

The professors in my public health program thought very little of the work that physicians do. I don’t mean that they thought poorly of us. From their point of view, the giant leaps forward occurred with classic public health interventions such as sanitation, clean water, safe food, and vaccinations. They could easily demonstrate that an individual doctor’s work barely registers, and that hospital care contributes little to the overall health of populations. My faculty let us know that each physician played a negligible role in improving the health of the public.

When I was in medical school, we had little formal education in population health principles and practices. COVID-19 has highlighted, once again, why this must change. All physicians need to understand the history and importance of public health, the principles of disaster preparedness, the basics of public health messaging, and the critical need for a deep trust and understanding between medicine and society.
Women and COVID-19: Minding the Gap

by Libby Ellinas, MD

The MCW community is (and should be) focused on the very important work of the pandemic, and the Center for the Advancement of Women in Science and Medicine (AWSM) hopes for everyone’s good health. As the crisis persists into its second month, the AWSM team is worrying about the effect of the pandemic on women.
Nearly half of the faculty and the vast majority of MCW staff, advanced practice providers (APPs), and hospital-affiliated nurses are women, putting them at the forefront of both our fight against COVID-19 and the resulting economic fallout. At home, women have simultaneously acquired greater caring responsibilities for children and elders, adding “substitute teacher” to their resumes, and worrying about whether the groceries are sufficiently sanitized. Complicating the problem, there are fewer supports for these extra duties: limited daycare, fewer convenient meal options, and no cleaning services.
Photos from the Front Line
Parag Patel, MD & Buba Marong, MD
Social Narrowing

by Laura Mark, PA-C, MPH

Social distancing. Two words that have become universally used (although somewhat less universally practiced). We cover our faces and our hands, we pretend to know exactly how far six feet is, and we Zoom like there’s no tomorrow. We – the people on the streets and in the grocery stores and on video chats – are the socially distanced. And there are very real mental, emotional, and physical consequences to social distancing, some of which we likely won’t recognize until long after the practice ends.
But one group has remained quiet in the dialogue of distancing: patients within the walls of our hospitals. The day that visitation was temporarily suspended was filled with frantic phone calls, goodbyes, and pleas to reconsider. Our patients, particularly those with prolonged admissions, provide the ultimate example of what it means to be socially distanced.
"My father-in-law, Gary, was calm and collected. Always a level head. While undergoing pancreatic cancer treatment, he was fascinated by the advanced technology. As a mechanical engineer, he understood the complexity of solving a challenging problem, of finding just the right solution - for his cancer and in life. If he were here today, he would laugh off the antics in the media, the bipartisan banter, and focus on the facts. There is a challenging problem at hand. There are people with the expertise to solve the problem. The rest of us just need to have faith and contribute what we can."

Kristen Gardner-Volle, Staff - Advancing a Healthier Wisconsin Endowment

"I think Mark Twain would have had wisdom to share these days. He lived through the horror of the Civil War, lost three siblings early in life, and was a keen observer of human behavior. As I listened to the news the other night, I thought of one of his many, many memorable quotes, "A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes." Maybe even more true now than in his day. What else would he h ave to tell us?

Anonymous, Physician- MCW-Milwaukee

"Dr. Robert Coon, my father, would have been very interested in the opportunity to learn about the all of the advances that are coming forth as a result of this epidemic. He received his graduate degree and worked in cardio-pulmonary research his entire career affiliated with MCW. Basic science has helped promulgate the advances in clinical medicine. He passed away this Fall after receiving excellent care through Froedtert/MCW.
He was proud to tell all the staff that cared for him the great advances that he had seen in his career. He was very proud to have been associated with MCW and the advances that are helping treat patient around the world through basic science to clinical care."

Daughter of Dr. Coon, Name Withheld - Community Member

"Thinking about someone important to me who is looooong dead, and what he might say about today, I of course immediately think of Plato. Plato argued, convincingly I might add (hey…it’s MY reflection), that we all seek the Good (cool Platonists capitalize Good) and that to know beauty, justice, truth, and the Good is to desire them. This means that if you really understand the Good, you cannot help but be attracted to it. This is encouraging, as regardless of our current situation, we can and will earnestly seek beauty, justice, truth and the Good."

Ryan Spellecy, PhD - Bioethics, Institute for Heath & Equity
Next week's reflection prompt:
Describe something in your life that you wouldn’t have otherwise noticed had it not been for all of the recent changes.  

From the Front Line
Three Questions for
Rachel A. Schlaak

PhD Student, MCW Pharmacology & Toxicology Research focus on identifying genes responsible for alterations in radiation sensitivity that will allow for personalizing breast cancer treatment

1. What is your typical day like?

"My productivity during the first two weeks in March was inconsistent; some days it was easier to get into the groove and others it was harder. Since being told that it is a good idea to set semi-strict work hours, I have been doing better, and have consistently productive days. I try to do my work from 8:00 or 9:00 am to 4:00 pm. In the past, I have worked over the weekends, but now I spend maybe one or two hours per weekend answering emails, writing, and creating figures/tables of data. I have been accustomed to my work time bleeding into my personal time, so the shutdown isn’t very different working from home in my personal environment.
Our lab didn't have much contact during the first three weeks of shutdown, but now we have a scheduled weekly lab meeting, mostly about pressing matters such as important ongoing animal work."

2. What will it be like to have a virtual thesis defense?  

"I have mixed feelings about not having a public defense where my family could come. It would be nice to share that day/accomplishment with my friends and family who provided me support during this time.
I know the important part is the interaction with the thesis committee; for that part, it doesn't matter to me if it is in-person or virtual.
I am a little nervous about whether the technology will go smoothly because it is a very important meeting, and I tend to worry about things even if they are out of my control."

3. What are you most worried about right now?   

"My laboratory work is complete, so I am not worried about conducting/completing experiments. I am worried about writing my dissertation correctly and satisfying my goals along with those of my committee. Currently there is little information for graduate students on writing a dissertation – some rules are in the handbook but most just use a former student's dissertation as a template. My mentor is also very hands-off and is more so with this shutdown. I am self-sufficient, but it would be nice to get more feedback on my writing, so the defense goes smoothly.  My writing has gotten better. I was used to writing under pressure with deadlines but now time is somewhat irrelevant. I am motivated to not waste time and days."
“The tricky part with this disease is that we have nothing to follow - to know what predicts how sick someone will be and what predicts them getting better."

Peggy Lai, MD
Pulmonology & Critical Care Medicine
Massachusetts General Hospital

"32 Days on a Ventilator: One COVID Patient's Fight to Breathe Again"
New York Times, April 26, 2020
MCW/Kern Coordinates Assembly of 300,000 Masks!

Led by MCW students and the Kern Institute staff, we made and distributed nearly 300,000 masks to local community clinics, homeless shelters, detention facilities, and almost 100 social service agencies.
Rebel Converting recently increased their donation of materials to make 3.5 million masks. In order to handle this volume we are transitioning all activities to the Fiserv Forum in collaboration with the Bucks, United Way, Habitat for Humanity, Unite MKE, and others.

MCW/Kern will be responsible for prioritization and distribution of the masks, leveraging our community ties and knowledge of public health. This could not have come to fruition without everybody's contribution!

Thank you to all mask-makers!
Be a Hero - Donate Blood!
The Transformational Times publishes weekly, delivering stories of hope, character and resilience to our virtual community.
Bruce Campbell, MD, Editor-in-Chief
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