(Editor’s Note: Dr. Jill Neff, who owns and operates Hometown Pediatric Care in Jackson, submitted this opinion piece, offering her response to two recent opinion pieces published in The Telegram from local physician Dr. Pat Ball concerning the response to the COVID-19 situation.)

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I have read both of Dr. Ball’s articles several times and would now like to offer (1) some fact-checking and (2) another perspective.

First the fact check. There were never any state or federal law enforcers that forbid physicians from seeing patients face-to-face. If Dr. Ball was told ‘no face-to-face’ then it was a decision from the Health Care system of which he works. Health systems have multiple and varied rules on how patients are to be seen and treated. At times, the sage advice of physicians working in those systems is not taken into consideration in making protocol. Those of us in private practice, on the other hand, have no such rules and regulations imposed upon us. We are able to place patients first and foremost. My office never closed to face-to-face visits. We welcomed patients to come in. Multiple precautions were taken to keep everyone safe, realizing that people still needed to be seen. If Dr. Ball is upset with not having face-to-face, he needs to take that up with his Health Care system, and not blame any governmental agency, either local, state or federal.

Second, Dr. Ball mentions ‘hide or fight’ and ‘fear or courage’.  I would offer that there are more options than just those. There must be a middle ground. Rarely are there ever just two options. I would counter that instead of the above choices that he has offered, we merely accept reality and then face it with prudence, which is what our leaders have done. The reality is COVID-19. It is here. It is worldwide. It has proven to be deadly. I choose to accept that reality (COVID-19) and am dealing with it by using the reasoning, skills and good judgment that others, much more knowledgeable than I, have spent their life skills developing. I will not laugh at or ridicule them for decisions they make, the education they have achieved or the life experiences their jobs have afforded. That is not fear, it is not hiding, and it is also not fighting. It is accepting the reality of COVID-19 and treating it with sound, educated and proven practices, then moving forward with a plan. That in a nutshell is the practice of medicine. That is what our patients ask of us each day. And that is all our leaders have asked us to believe in. They have asked for understanding and respect.

By following the plans that our leaders have laid out, it has given our country a time to prevent much worse devastation and to do it in a respectful manner. Prevention is SO much more favorable than illness and death. That is why I have spent a lifetime teaching and coaching prevention in health care. It has been my privilege to abide by the COVID-19 guidelines. I do it out of respect for all of those of whom I come in contact, all of those who are fighting for others’ lives and for those that are affected by the disease.  It is not a matter of ‘what I want to do’ but, rather, a matter of respecting the lives of the many others that I would have involved in my selfishness of wanting my own way. It has been only 3-6 months. We are blessed to be on this earth a lifetime. These few months are merely a blink of the eye. It is so doable.

‘Respect:’ “Recognizing the worth of others.”

I Respect: The grandmothers choosing not to see their grandchildren now, so that they may hopefully have YEARS left to make those cookies.

I Respect: Those with chronic illness that want to see more sunrises and sunsets.

I Respect: Families that have stayed home, followed the rules, utilizing this time for introspection and learning to grow closer with new and innovative day-to-day plans.

I Respect: All of the essential workers from the ground floor up. All of these folks are serving in ways that NONE of us can comprehend.

I Respect: The depressed, the saddened, the lonely, and the needy of our society, those that are struggling to get up each day and are scared to step a foot outside.

I Respect: Those that are giving up six months of what ‘I want’ so others can have life.

That is why I have been isolating and creating social distancing and waiting these mere 3-6 months to step back out into the open:  respect for the other people on my planet.

In closing, I would like to quote a text that I, as a new physician, stood and solemnly, with deep conviction, said at my graduation.  It carries great meaning in this time of COVID, not to just we as physicians, but the deeper meaning can absolutely apply to anyone at whatever stage they find themselves.

“I will respect the hard-won scientific gains of those physicians in whose steps I walk, and gladly share such knowledge as is mine with those who are to follow.

“I will apply, for the benefit of the sick, all measures [that] are required, avoiding those twin traps of over treatment and therapeutic nihilism.

“I will remember that there is art to medicine as well as science and that warmth, sympathy and understanding may outweigh the surgeon’s knife or the chemist’s drug…

“I will remember that I do not treat a fever chart, a cancerous growth, but a sick human being, whose illness may affect the person’s family and economic stability. My responsibility includes these related problems, if I am to care adequately for the sick.

“I will prevent disease whenever I can, for prevention is preferable to cure…”

I underlined that last sentence, because I feel that this is the heart and essence of medicine. This also is COVID-19.  This is what quarantine and self-sacrifice are achieving:  prevention. Freedom comes with consequences. My freedom cannot infringe upon that of another. We are a collective unit. Sharing, caring, and helping each other is really what freedom is all about.

--Dr. Jill Neff