Timothy Price, MD, FACEP
Each day we hear some news about the current world health crisis. Media oversaturation with brief updates about the latest global threat can be detrimental to our health. We have survived the scares of AIDS (some of us remember HTLV-3), SARS, Ebola, MERS, Swine flu, Zika and others. This time it is 2019-nCoV, aka Coronavirus. Yes, this one looks significant and none of us knows the future course of the outbreak. There are highly qualified experts busily working to ebb the crisis and minimizing its impact not only globally but here in the US. There really is very little any of us can to do effect the outcome, and there are other more pressing medical crises that each of us CAN do something about. As of February 9 there have been 37,558 cases of Coronavirus reported globally with only 307 cases outside of China. It has resulted in 813 deaths. Certainly cause for concern, but let’s consider just 2 public health issues we deal with on a regular basis.
In Kentucky, around 1000 people die each year from drug overdoses! There are significant efforts at many levels to combat the problem. Many of you have taken a very active role at the local level to help those fighting addiction. We should all be grateful for your efforts. Most of us are doing some part by increased awareness and modified prescribing practices. Let us each continue to strive to see these patients in the same way we see patients struggling with other illnesses. The short term and long term mortality risks in our overdose patients are statistically very significant. If we approached the risk analysis in these patients in a fashion similar to other patients, such as those with chest pain I suspect our treatment or dispositions would often be very different than they have been.
A second public health issue we all face is driving under the influence. In 2018 there were 10,511 deaths due to drunk driving in the US. We should never become numb to the impact on families or on us as physicians dealing with the families and their emotions. There are things we can do to address drunk driving. We should discuss the problem with all of our patients who present after drinking and driving, stressing the extreme risks the behavior poses, not only to themselves but to others. We can suggest, with attitudes of compassion not judgment, outpatient assessment and treatment if appropriate. We can support efforts by other organizations to reduce the prevalence of drinking and driving and reduce recidivism. There are many other ways to influence and impact issues if we just look for ways to act.
Thanks for being there serving strangers every hour of every day. I am honored to represent and serve such a great group of people.