If your family or friends are in need of groceries, but they are more susceptible to the dangers of COVID-19, do the neighborly thing and pick up some groceries for them while you do your own shopping. It may take a little extra effort, but you are doing everyone good by keeping more people indoors, keeping those with underlying health issues safe at home, and if those individuals are sick, you are keeping them away from others who may not be.
As a part of my series about the things we can do to remain hopeful and support each other during anxious times, I had the pleasure of interviewing Mike Ramsay MD.
Dr. Ramsay is a professor and chair of anesthesia at Baylor University Medical Center, president of the Baylor Scott & White Research Institute, and a member of the Baylor Board of Trustees. He served as president of the International Liver Transplant Society and is well-known for the development and implementation of the Ramsay Sedation Scale — a tool that has been adopted globally, designed for interpreting the depth of sedation for patients in the critical care unit. Today, as one of the Patient Safety Movement Foundation’s longest-standing board members, serving since 2013, Dr. Ramsay serves as its newly appointed chairman of the board of directors. The organization is a global non-profit dedicated to unifying those involved in the healthcare ecosystem, identifying challenges that are causing preventable patient deaths, and creating actionable solutions to mitigate them.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?
Iwas born in Dublin, Ireland, where from an early age I knew that I wanted to become a physician. I attended medical school in London and went on to join the faculty of London University in 1974. In 1976, I received an offer to transfer to Dallas, Texas — a pivotal decision that would entail major changes to not only my life, but my family’s as well. After discussing lifestyle and career changes my wife, Zoe, and I would face, we still were uncertain about how to proceed. As chance would have it, the Archbishop of Canterbury was a patient of mine, so I took it upon myself to open up and discuss the opportunity with him. After spending several hours discussing the drawbacks and the merits of the big move, he concluded with, “Mike you must go, or you will regret it for the rest of your life! We hope that you will come back, but I suspect you will not.”
By December 1976, Zoe and I, along with our four small children, took a leap of faith and left the UK for Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas, Texas. Since then, we have never looked back. The hospitality of the Texans was second to none and the support for a young physician scientist was powerful. As long as my proposals were well thought out and I produced results, the support was there.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
The book Don Quixote by Miguel Cervantes always stands out in my mind because Cervantes was really making fun of some of the pillars of society that had no foundation, either scientific or moral. It leaves you with questions about society, and what is real versus fake. Through the entire book, Cervantes keeps readers intrigued and asking questions.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. From your perspective can you help our readers to see the “Light at the End of the Tunnel”? Can you share your “5 Reasons to Be Hopeful During this Corona Crisis”? If you can, please share a story or example for each.
The coronavirus is a true pandemic and it will take a boost in our immune system to overcome it. While many will get sick, and many not able to overcome it, a larger portion of the population will have an innate immunity to it and not even know they were ever exposed to it.
Initially, as you are seeing already, we are mitigating the spread by instituting social distancing. However, because we need to keep the economy moving, social distancing cannot continue for a long period of time, let alone, be the only solution. As we continue to learn about the virus and further understand it, we will know how to better contain it by adopting simple measures — potentially including utilizing facemasks, avoiding handshakes and more.
Early treatments that will reduce mortality will be aimed at controlling the inflammatory cytokine storm that seems to be causing the most harm. Powerful inflammatory cytokine blockers do exist and will be harnessed into therapy. Ultimately, within a year, a vaccine will be made and those who receive it will be protected. Society will be changed by this event, but we will be in a better place when the next virulent bug hits our shores.
From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to effectively offer support to those around us who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?
From my experience, there are several basic things that we all can do to support one another during these trying times, including:
- Adopting Safe Practices — Staying at home if a fever is developed, washing hands frequently especially after contact with public surfaces, and wearing face masks can give people a sense of ease that others are doing their part in helping reduce the spread. Many now know this virus is spread not only by contact with an infected surface, but also by droplets and aerosols from coughing, sneezing and even talking. Atul Gawande wrote in The New Yorker last month about how two densely populated countries, Hong Kong and Singapore, were able to reduce the mortality rate in healthcare workers to zero by the simple measures of wearing regular surgical masks and gloves, practicing proper hand hygiene and disinfecting all surfaces after patient contact. This worked and we can all learn lessons from this on how to live our lives safely.
- Connecting with Others — While we should all be practicing social distancing, it is still valuable to make time to connect with family, friends and loved ones regarding concerns and feelings. Taking time to FaceTime, Skype, Zoom or dial a friend directly, engaging them in safe, remote activities can help them disconnect and unwind from the current events. Many individuals are caught up in the chaos of the news, and while it is good to remain informed, it is also good to take breaks from the news to help reduce the stress that can be formed from the pandemic reports.
- Helping Younger Ones Cope with Stress — Everyone is experiencing some form of stress from this pandemic. However, teenagers and especially younger children, may have a harder time adapting to this new “normal.” While some may exhibit signs of irritability and excessive worry, others may find it more difficult to focus on school. Taking a moment to talk to children regarding COVID-19 in a way they can understand, will not only provide them an open channel to express their feelings, but they will feel reassured knowing they are safe.
- Making New Routines Fun and Achievable — Adopting and teaching new routines will enable mental health and overall wellbeing, such as good rest, taking breaks, eating well and exercising. It may be more difficult to get to the gym, but you can try some new things at home. Family dinner outings may be a no-go, but maybe family night entails cooking dinner together. There are so many ways to bond at home with new routines.
- Helping the Elderly — If your family or friends are in need of groceries, but they are more susceptible to the dangers of COVID-19, do the neighborly thing and pick up some groceries for them while you do your own shopping. It may take a little extra effort, but you are doing everyone good by keeping more people indoors, keeping those with underlying health issues safe at home, and if those individuals are sick, you are keeping them away from others who may not be.
What are the best resources you would suggest to a person who is feeling anxious?
The best thing to do during this stressful time is to talk to family and friends; don’t keep the fear and anxiety inside. Look at what we have overcome in the past and realize that this too will pass, and you can protect yourself.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
My favorite “Life Lesson Quote” is really based on the idea that “if you don’t succeed, try and try again.” Basically, “never give up.” I had that drilled into me when I played rugby football at The London Hospital. The number of games we won in the last minute was incredible as we “never gave up.” This applies to our management of the COVID-19 virus too; we must never give up until we have it controlled.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-).
I was blessed to meet Joe Kiani many years ago, soon after he had founded the very successful MedTech company, Masimo Corporation. He has a tremendous drive to create technology that will make our healthcare systems safer. About eight years ago, he followed this up by creating the Patient Safety Movement Foundation — a non-profit aimed at reducing the 200,000 thousand preventable deaths in U.S. hospitals each year to zero. This notion has since gone global and is having a tremendous impact on making healthcare systems safer and safer. I have been fortunate to be able to work alongside this great individual and experience the tearful stories of where our hospitals have failed, while also witnessing the results in reduced harm crossing the globe. So luckily for me, the movement that I’m most passionate about has already been created, now I am blessed to lead the charge and help save the lives of patients and providers who are seeking care.
What is the best way our readers can follow you online?
I am a private guy, but follow the Patient Safety Movement Foundation @PLAN4ZERO. I write monthly letters on our blog so you can see my most recent reflections there.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!