Op-Ed: The pandemic, Hurricane Ian and me — a doctor whose friends say I have PTSD
I’ve covered medicine for 24 years. Before Hurricane Andrew — the longest cyclical rainstorm in 100 years — I covered hospitals, emergency medical services, and the National Guard. When Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana in 2005, I was still in med school. After that storm, I returned to Houston and joined the National Guard. I spent the next decade in Iraq and Afghanistan. I’ve worked in hospitals, fire stations, nursing homes, clinics, pharmacies, and community health clinics. I was one of the first two med students at the University of Houston to volunteer at a hospital, which led to a decade-long career in healthcare. I have published three books about medicine and have co-authored a book about the hospital experience at Harvard Medical School.
I am a physician, a researcher, a writer, and a public health advocate. Yet, I struggle with some of the things that are more commonly associated with mental illness. I have a PTSD diagnosis and a host of other mental health challenges that plague me.
The first one is the pandemic. The COVID-19 virus has created a massive disruption to the American healthcare system, and this disruption has brought with it a myriad of challenges for the medical community.
When I was a med student, I had two friends who were the top students in their class. At that time, most graduating medical students left for residency to work in solo practices, solo hospitals, or community hospitals. But, when I was at Harvard, I was asked to work in a VA hospital, which at the time was one of the few places that offered the opportunity for a career as a physician. I’ve worked in VA hospitals in Houston, Chicago, and New York. Some of those places were the epicenters of the pandemic and were overwhelmed, but many of them were not. So, as an aspiring doctor with a medical degree who also was