Each week, UNCP will honor one of our alumni on the front lines in health care, public service and other key professions leading the way in our nation's response to COVID-19. Below is a submission about this week's hero, Barry Graham '01.
Barry Graham, PA, Southeastern Health-clinic/urgent care
Dealing with COVID-19 has been an ever-changing process. In the early days/weeks, it was a very volatile situation for the government, public and health care community. Guidelines and available information were frequently changing. We were dealing with so much new information at once regarding the virus, but also furloughs of jobs and even closures of clinics. Now that we have some experience with the virus and have taken the blow of social change, the environment has become a much more stable one. Daily at the clinic, we now all wear masks for our protection but also to protect our patients, we keep a check of our temperature to make sure we are not exposing others unknowingly, and now we are able to perform COVID-19 testing.
Testing has been the most volatile issue during this whole process. Initially, we didn't have tests and had to rely on our clinical judgment if patients were showing signs of COVID symptoms. We eventually did get testing capability, but only tested patients who had traveled from a high-risk area and were symptomatic. After that, we started testing only healthcare workers and those from high-risk areas. Now that we have known community spread of the virus, we have lifted the travel exemption and now can test anyone who is symptomatic or has had a known exposure to a COVID positive patient. We initially would have tested everyone we could, but we just didn't have the tests, and also, the state lab just didn't have the capability of processing all the collections. My first COVID-19 test on a patient took 13 days to return thankfully negative results. Now the turnaround time is 48-72 hours.
During this process, I have seen the local medical community step up in a cohesive effort to meet this virus head-on. Since early March, every weekday at 6 p.m., we have had a provider call to discuss virus trends, treatment options and surge plans in case we have a surge of COVID-19 patients. There are usually 100 or more providers on the call, and they include; Surgeons, hospitalists, emergency room physicians, pediatricians, family doctors, advanced practice providers and several folks from hospital leadership. Led by Dr. Joe Roberts, VP of Medical Affairs at SE Health, and Dr. Jason Butler, Chief Medical Information Officer at SE Health, they have been influential in bringing the private and hospital-based community providers together with this call. We have had several guest speakers on the call from all over the country, including hard-hit NY City, Virology experts and even a provider in Singapore to learn from their experiences. Many office-based providers have been preparing with at-home study and presentations at the hospital to brush up knowledge on inpatient care, just in case we are called to lend a hand due to a surge of COVID patients.
The COVID pandemic has changed our lives forever. Although there is currently not a treatment, you can rest assured you will be taken care of by your hard-working medical professionals. We will eventually develop a treatment and a vaccine, and we will overcome it.