Richard J. Andrassy, MD
Executive Dean, ad interim
Chair and Professor, Department of Surgery
Jack H. Mayfield, MD Distinguished University Chair in Surgery Denton A. Cooley, MD Chair in Surgery
H. Wayne Hightower Distinguished Professor in the Medical Sciences
It’s been quite an interesting year. The past 11 months, I’ve been the interim dean. In some ways it has been a challenging time to be dean with COVID and the vaccines coming out; on the other hand, it did slow down a lot of the interactions you would normally have. So, I have had to spend a lot of time on Zoom and WebEx. There are some days when I have Zoom fatigue.
It’s been rewarding to see how our faculty, residents, fellows, and students in so many ways stepped up to the plate to work together and care for these very ill patients despite the fact they were putting themselves at risk and may have had illnesses and deaths in their own families. I really want to give credit to the nurses and providers who were on the frontline during that period of time risking their health and their families’ health to take care of these very ill patients. And I’m very impressed by how our own doctors started looking into advancing the care of these patients with COVID so rapidly that many patients were saved here who would have died elsewhere. A lot of sacrifices were made for the benefits of patients, and yet we were able to continue on with the education of students and residents during this time.
Through this pandemic I’ve learned how we as a nation could come together in a crisis. On the local level, there are a number of things we have learned that I think we will continue to use even when the pandemic is over, such as using telehealth to save patients traveling. We’ve learned we can do a whole lot of business, meetings, interviews, and initial contacts with people via Zoom and WebEx.
I’ve also seen a lot of our students, residents, and faculty have a hunger and need to meet in person. Despite how easy it is to do grand rounds and M&M on Zoom, it’s still not the same as visiting face to face. People still like to get out and have dinners and lunches – meals seem to be a way to break through barriers. All of the national and international travel can be done via Zoom, but there is still a benefit from meeting at society and association meetings, and people crave socialization.
Some people have used this time to improve their health, and others didn’t do well with it. Some had relationships that got better, and others had relationships deteriorate because of too much interaction. I’ve seen how certain people who are used to this interaction really don’t do well without the socialization. Their capacity for getting things done and their personal well-being deteriorated during this time. I used my free time to do more exercise and tried to use my time wisely and not be despondent.
The good news is we can use what we learned to increase productivity and happiness. Instead of a meeting to set up a meeting, have a virtual meeting to get it organized and have a final meeting face to face. A lot of people have found they are more productive at home – they save an hour each way by not traveling in traffic.
The important thing is that we learn from this experience – take away the good things and let go of the bad.