Doctors’ Day takes on different meaning this year

Doctors’ Day takes on different meaning this year

In hospitals and medical clinics across the globe and throughout our great state, teams of physicians, nurses and health care providers stand gowned and ready to care for patients presenting with COVID-19.

Monday was National Doctors’ Day, a day when we traditionally and light-heartedly recognize the physicians who care for us. This year it took on new meaning as these individuals put themselves on the front lines of an unprecedented, monumental moment in history.

I can assure you, though, that historical relevance is not what’s on their minds. They’re thinking: Did I do enough for this patient? Is my family safe? Are my nurses and staff fatigued or burned out? Was I exposed to the virus?

They are thinking of innovative ways to care for patients who are immunocompromised or afraid to visit a medical office but need to see a doctor. They are calling their patients with chronic conditions to check on them. They are living out the Hippocratic Oath as they rapidly adapt to a very fluid situation.

While we all continue to hope that the worst won’t come, these individuals are prepared for when it does.

I think about Marshall’s more than 1,900 medical alumni across the country who are manning emergency rooms, urgent cares and medical clinics in the heart of this crisis.

I think about alumni like Dr. Gary Procop, Class of 1992, who serves as director of Molecular Microbiology, Virology, Mycology and Parasitology at Cleveland Clinic. Gary and his team have fast-tracked a COVID-19 vaccine that is currently undergoing clinical trials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

I think about Dr. Marshall Lyon, Class of 1994. As professor and director of Transplant Infectious Diseases at Emory University, Marshall was on the front lines of the Ebola crisis in 2014, and his colleagues are once again leading efforts related to COVID-19.

Closer to home, I think about the physicians who are on the front line here in Huntington, dealing with the fear and uncertainty gripping our region while preparing for a surge of COVID-19 cases that we pray will never come. Physicians like Dr. Larry Dial, Class of 1999; Dr. Kara Willenburg; and Dr. Joe Evans, Class of 1982, are working tirelessly to keep us safe and capable of serving our community. I think of our graduates serving our primarily rural communities throughout the state; I hope these physicians know we are there for them.

Pandemics are something you read about in textbooks; they are not a situation you ever expect to encounter. I’m honored to be part of a profession and a medical community throughout West Virginia that is taking a leadership role in this crisis — from our state and local health departments to the clinical faculty in our medical schools to every physician in between.

This opinion-editorial was originally published in The Herald-Dispatch on April 1, 2020.



Joseph I. Shapiro, MD

Dr. Shapiro is dean of the Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine and a nephrologist with more than 30 years of clinical experience.