Today we recognize all the men in our lives who care for us and keep us safe. This year, more than ever, that includes the hard-working men on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. While our country worked together to flatten the curve and allow our healthcare systems to be prepared for patients, we are still seeing a rise in COVID-19 confirmed cases in states throughout the country. And there is a full team of healthcare providers, such as respiratory therapists and registered nurses who tirelessly work to ensure that we are optimally treated for this disease.

Pulmonary and critical care physician, Dr. David Hill has felt the strain since March when the influx of COVID-19 patients changed his daily routine not only at work, but at home. Instead of one physician covering the ICU, COVID-19 made it necessary for everyone in his practice to take extra shifts, sometimes working 12-16 hours for seven day stretches. In addition, the increased possibility of spreading the virus made it necessary for Dr. Hill to take isolation measures in order to keep his family safe. “My youngest daughter has medical problems which potentially increase her risk. So, I would come into the house through a separate entrance, shower, and keep my distance from my wife and daughter who is home from college. I slept in a separate bedroom for weeks.”

Dr. Hill and family Dr. Hill and family

Despite this distance, it is his family that has helped Dr. Hill maintain perspective during this trying time. “Being a father has made me more appreciative of the stress illness puts on the entire family.  Everyone who is sick and in the hospital is someone's loved one.  I am better able to relate to my patients and their families based on my experiencing the wonderful and challenging aspects of parenthood.”

Dr. Cooke with his wife and daughter. Dr. Cooke with his wife and daughter.

Dr. Cooke, an academic general thoracic surgeon with interests in lung cancer and minimally invasive robotic surgery, agrees that being a father has been helpful in dealing with his patients during this trying time. “Being a father has amplified my patience and empathy and helps me view this pandemic through the lenses of other’s feelings. Being a physician is not a profession, but a way of life, and I am lucky to have a family that loves and supports me in that,” he explained.  

He was also quick to point out that everyone, including his family, deserve recognition for facing the challenges of isolation with grace. “Despite me being a frontline worker, the pandemic has been rougher on my family because they have been stuck at home, at least I can go to work every day,” he said.

Dr. Cedric “Jamie” Rutland, CEO and medical director of Rutland Medical Group and Westcoast Lung, has experienced the pandemic on a different level. Due to his experience, he found himself uniquely situated to help those effected by this deadly disease. “Since I have positioned myself as someone who knows a fair amount of what you can know about SARS-CoV-2, my clinic has been very busy throughout the pandemic,” he said. “As someone who is surrounded by coronavirus every day, I have to say that this is the first time in my career when going to work is actually threatening to my health. That’s a little bit scary. But you move past that and you do everything you can for your patients.” 

Dr. Rutland and his family Dr. Rutland and his family

Despite his busy schedule fighting COVID-19, Dr. Rutland always makes time for his family, the driving force behind his practice. “My life fits into my work schedule. I make sure to see my children and my wife every single day,” he said. “There are times when I have to go on call at the ICU call and spend the night away from my family—probably about seven times a month.”

He has also taken it upon himself to reach out to his friends and neighbors to educate and ease the worry we all are feeling during this time. “Being a father has allowed me to relate with all those who are scared for their children and want to protect them as much as possible.”

Though the doctors on the frontlines are busy, leaning on family has proven to be vital to keeping spirits up during COVID-19. “Being a father and being a pulmonary and critical care physician are both challenging,” Dr Hill elaborated. “We work long hours and our days can be stressful. Being a father is the best thing I've ever done. I love my work and look forward to doing my best to prevent illness and cure it when it occurs. I love my family more. I have the best of both worlds!”

Thank you to all these dads, and every front line worker. Happy Father's Day!

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