Throughout the world, Park Scholars are doing their part to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus and support their communities. Classmates Dr. Tracy Forrest ’04 and Dr. Lauren Gainor ’04 are physicians in North Carolina and share how the tenets of leadership, service, and character have served them while working in the medical field during the coronavirus pandemic.
Forrest is an obstetrician-gynecologist at Wilson OB/GYN and Wilson Medical Center in Wilson, N.C. She practices in a rural county that has seen more than 200 cases of COVID-19. Gainor is Medical Director of Inpatient Pediatrics and Newborn Services in Coastal Children’s Services at New Hanover Regional Medical Center in Wilmington, N.C., and takes care of newborns and children admitted to the hospital for an illness or injury.
Efforts to flatten the curve have had a noticeable impact on their practices. Gainor and Forrest both report a drop in the number of patients they see each day. They attribute this in part to hospital policies delaying elective, non-emergent surgeries, a measure taken to conserve PPE and staff for COVID-19 emergencies. Forrest shares that at her OB/GYN office, patients now wait in their cars instead of the waiting room and are screened upon entering the office. “Only the patient is allowed back into the treatment area,” she explains.
Despite all of her precautions, Forrest fears bringing the virus home to her family. “Overall, we’re healthy,” she explains, “but I do have a six-month-old.” She says everyone should do their part by wearing a face covering and staying home when possible.
Gainor points out that the tactics to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus have incidentally curtailed the spread of other viruses. “Social distancing has reduced the transmission of the regular respiratory viruses that we normally see in children in the hospital,” she says.
Since the novel coronavirus has affected adults more severely than children, Gainor has looked for ways to support the other medical staff at her hospital. “As a pediatrician, I am concerned with how I can be a resource to my adult health care colleagues,” she explains.
As health care workers adapt to changing conditions, Gainor and Forrest have found inspiration in the resilience and ingenuity of their colleagues. “Health care workers are motivated by a commitment to serve our communities because we care about the safety and well-being of the people in them,” Gainor explains. “The new challenges of this current pandemic have inspired creativity, resourcefulness, and hard work.” Forrest adds that she is encouraged by “the willingness of people to rally together and take care of each other in times of crisis.”
Forrest says that her Park Scholarships experience prepared her for the challenges she faces today. She says leadership was key in pushing her OB/GYN office to apply for a small business loan that allowed the practice to avoid furloughing staff.
Forrest stresses the importance of putting the greater good before oneself. “Character and service are driving forces during this time.”
Janine Albert contributed to this article.