Dr. Mireya Wessolossky: “Compassion”

The crisis has made me recognize how interconnected we are, and how crucial it is to help each other regardless of your country of origin or borders. It made me realize how advanced we are in developing great innovations to help get control of the pandemic — such as creating more testing, increasing ventilator production and the […]

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The crisis has made me recognize how interconnected we are, and how crucial it is to help each other regardless of your country of origin or borders. It made me realize how advanced we are in developing great innovations to help get control of the pandemic — such as creating more testing, increasing ventilator production and the rollout of several COVID-19 vaccines.

As part of my series about people who stepped up to make a difference during the COVID19 Pandemic, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Mireya Wessolossky.

Dr. Mireya Wessolossky is an associate professor of medicine, specializing in infectious diseases, at UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester, MA. She was trained as an infectious disease specialist at UMass Memorial and earned her master’s in public health at University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She was born and raised in Venezuela and completed medical school at Universidad Central de Venezuela.

Dr. Wessolossky’s major focuses have been treating patients with HIV and hepatitis C and B. Most recently, she has been involved in clinical trials to find the best therapy for COVID-19. She is also the medical leader in the antibiotic stewardship program at UMass Memorial, and is part of a very dynamic and intense group of consultant physicians for general infectious diseases at the health care system.

She enjoys outdoor hobbies such as hiking, biking and running. She also likes to read and share her knowledge every Saturday during a radio program called La Mega- Worcester, which is temporarily on hold due the pandemic.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit about how and where you grew up?

I grew up in Caracas, Venezuela which has beautiful spring weather year-round. My youth was full of adventurous experiences, discovering awesome places in Venezuela — including Margarita Island and Angel Falls. I was lucky to have received a great education and to have been surrounded by loving family and friends.

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?

I am a perpetual learner; therefore, books have been my favorite activity. I have read a lot of books over my life. Many of them have been impactful at different times — depending on my level of consciousness and stage in life. Pointing to one would be dishonest so I have listed a few that have made me better in many ways.

1. Cien Anos de Soledad- One Hundred Years of Solitude- Gabriel Garcia Marquez

2. El Lobo Estepario- Hermann Hess

3. Siddharta- Hermann Hess

4. The Mastery of Love- Don Miguel Ruiz

5. Four Agreements- Don Miguel Ruiz

6. Think and Grow Rich- Napoleon Hill

Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?

“You must be the change you wish to see in the World”- Mahatma Gandhi

“Change the way you look at things and the things you look at, change”- Wayne Dyer

I feel that these life lesson quotes help me be a better person and be the example I want to see for others. How can I ask my patients to give up their habits if I cannot give up mine? How can I be compassionate in understanding their pains and tribulations if I don’t deal with mine? I work hard every day to be a better version of myself, and be an example for others, but I don’t ask. I just BE ONE.

When I see something I don’t like, I try to see many other perspectives of the same problem to see how we can change it — whatever that problem might be. At times, it is our own view that makes things wrong, and may be by changing the way I see things, they will change too.

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. You are currently leading a social impact organization that has stepped up during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Can you tell us a bit about what you and your organization are trying to address?

I am a proud member of UMass Memorial Health Care, which has the mission of achieving the best health care for all in the Central Massachusetts region by incorporating the best science, research and development to improve the life of its patients in an equal and fair way for all. I am aligned to this mission as I believe that we all deserve the best from each other regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, financial power or political affiliation, and regardless of the country of origin or immigration status.

In your opinion, what does it mean to be a hero?

To be a hero means that you will do your mission for others with passion and conviction, despite fear and danger. Having the courage to act in favor of saving a life, such as pulling someone from a dangerous situation, is a true act of heroism.

In your opinion or experience, what are “5 characteristics of a hero? Please share a story or example for each.

  • Selflessness: A firefighter that put his life in danger to get someone out of a fire
  • Courage: The brave men and women fighting during World War II
  • Compassion: A nurse who spends more hours of her shift with a dying patient, giving them company when visitors aren’t allowed in due to restrictions
  • Supernatural Ability in Tough Situations: A mother who finds the strength to pull her son out from underneath a car
  • Helpful: Voluntary members working for social justice or feeding hungry citizens during hard times

If heroism is rooted in doing something difficult, scary, or even self-sacrificing, what do you think drives some people — ordinary people — to become heroes?

The nature of a human being is to help others leaning on the innate instinct of love, peace, and compassion.

What was the specific catalyst for you or your organization to take heroic action? At what point did you personally decide that heroic action needed to be taken?

I am not alone and don’t want to sound heroic but being able to bring my years of expertise to the pandemic response in our community is more or less my heroic action. We (UMass Memorial Health Care) steps up to challenges with the realization that we are here to fulfill our mission to help our community get better and beat COVID-19. I am just one member of this great organization and I do my service to the best of my abilities each and every day. I am thankful for being part of this phenomenal group of health care workers and extend my gratitude to all the first responders helping us as well.

Who are your heroes, or who do you see as heroes today?

Nurses, nurses, and nurses! But truly, all the emergency personnel — including nurses, doctors, house keepers, registers, security members, ICU caregivers, residents and fellows, and dietary aides — are all heroes who keep our organization running.

Let’s talk a bit about what is happening in the world today. What specifically frightened or frightens you most about the pandemic?

The lack of unified COVID-19 response here in the United States is certainly frightening and I fear that the division of the “America First” mentality will jeopardize the global sense of community and help that the U.S. offers, which is a beacon of hope for many other nations.

Despite that, what gives you hope for the future? Can you explain?

New leaders in the federal government, who will allow science to be the driver behind policy changes and programs, will get things under control. I am trying to avoid political talk but unfortunately, in my opinion, the mismanagement of the previous federal administration was a major culprit for the pandemic getting out of control.

What has inspired you the most about the behavior of people during the pandemic, and what behaviors do you find most disappointing?

What has inspired me the most is the compassion of many health care workers and the community to help others without reservation or hesitation. I applaud that the majority of our community remains committed to following mask and social distancing recommendations. However, I was disappointed that many ignored these measures and got together during the holidays, creating a second COVID wave.

Has this crisis caused you to reassess your view of the world or of society? We would love to hear what you mean.

The crisis has made me recognize how interconnected we are, and how crucial it is to help each other regardless of your country of origin or borders. It made me realize how advanced we are in developing great innovations to help get control of the pandemic — such as creating more testing, increasing ventilator production and the rollout of several COVID-19 vaccines.

I believe we learn to live with less and are more mindful of what we take for granted. Now, we appreciate the need to help each other even more.

What permanent societal changes would you like to see come out of this crisis?

Recognize that what happens in one country affects another. We need to be less isolated and have more of a cooperative attitude, not a competitive one.

If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?

Inspire others with your genuine example of service, compassion and selflessness.

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 am laughing because I have always wanted to ask everyone to pick up trash on their street, park, or roads to make our environment more clean. Even if you are not the person who threw the trash out in the first place, it is contaminating our land which belongs to all of us. I pick up trash every day when I walk my dogs but never ask others to do it, so I will take the chance then…thanks

Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

There are many, but if I have to pick one, it would be Oprah Winfrey. I chose Oprah because she is someone who has grown in many aspects of her life. Throughout her life, she has continued to give to others by making charitable donations, opening a school in Africa and helping girls become leaders. I also like her selection of books which I tend to enjoy, especially because she expresses spirituality and the understanding of others. She is very empathic.

How can our readers follow you online?

You can follow UMass Memorial Health Care on Twitter and LinkedIn. I also have a Spanish radio show that is on hold due to the pandemic called La Mega.

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

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