To be clear, 99% of health care workers did not sign up for disaster medicine. When entering the profession, most did not envision their days were going to be filled with fear, questioning their own mortality. Most did not envision days with bruises on their face from prolonged mask use. Two from my own team contracted the illness recently, leaving me with the anxious question, “Am I next?” To be fair to my friend, I am part of a very tiny minority that did sign up for this line of duty. I studied communicable disease control and contagion prior to…


When the world went dark from COVID-19, who did the heroes turn to? The artist.

Amid the pandemic, when the world quieted to the sounds of our own breathing, when the stillness of our isolation felt dark, who did the healthcare workers on the frontlines battling COVID-19 turn to, earnestly and urgently, for comfort and meaning? The artists.

The skin on my face was weathered and raw from my tightly fit N-95 mask and goggles. As an infectious disease physician, I spent my day treating hospitalized veterans with COVID-19 — some sicker than others. In my cold garage, I removed my hospital clothes and bolted across my home towards the shower, my so-called “home decontamination…


The abysmal attempt at mass vaccination against COVID-19 in the United States is uninspiring — a prophecy seemingly set in stone by the failures of the testing debacles.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on Monday, January 11th, that of 25.5 million doses distributed, only 8.9 million had been actually administered. In other words, over the last three weeks, only 35% of doses were actually injected into arms. Of the possible 528 million doses to achieve herd immunity (roughly 264 million people), we are at less than 2%. At this rate, it would take over 3.5 years to…


Next week, half of our country may be filled with disappointment. Many are already running on fumes from the pandemic, especially healthcare workers. This is a thank you to all artists for helping us survive.

The skin on my face was weathered and raw from my tightly fit N-95 mask and goggles. As an infectious disease physician, I spent my day treating hospitalized veterans with COVID-19 — some sicker than others. In my cold garage, I removed my hospital clothes and bolted across my home towards the shower, my so-called “home decontamination protocol.” Afterward, in self-enforced isolation, I turned on the television.

“Ah, a new movie is out!” I thought to myself while noticing the trailer for Andy Samberg’s Palm Springs. Watching him goofily dance at a wedding while in a time loop — I…


From the dimly lit hospital ward window, I watched as the sun fell asleep, shielded behind the endless rolling hills of Rwanda. The trees held strong; black soldiers, standing in resilient rows. The fleeting colors of dusk began to fade, and the crimson skies illuminated the hospital bed next to me.

Heather, a 64-year-old prisoner, was admitted for altered mental status. She had progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy, a rare and often fatal complication of uncontrolled HIV. Her face was creased by suffering, weathered from a life of remorse. A medical student fervently advocated for a change to a newer, costlier, antiretroviral…


Death was not taught in medical school — just the methods to keep people living. There were no chapters to memorize, no questions on the examinations, and no evidence-based algorithm to follow. I was told that when death occurs, all that was left was to check for signs of life, officially pronounce the death, make the appropriate calls, and fill out the necessary paperwork.

People are living longer and better than any time previously. Modern advances have turned the processes of aging and dying into medical experiences, yet I am not so sure we in the medical world are prepared…


My face shield whistled with noise as it brushed against my thin yellow gown. Bright monitors surrounded me, chirping like cardinals in the summer. A slow exhale felt comfortably warm against my N-95 mask. Treading down the river of COVID-19 patients as a second-year infectious disease fellow, I knew this was exactly where I needed to be. Even beneath these protective barriers, I could look left, right, and straight ahead with clear, unobstructed vision.

When I wrote part 1 of this post in April 2019 — I wrote to medical students and residents considering their career options. I prophesized one…


With more than five million infected by COVID-19 in the US, the pandemic has illuminated the cracks in American healthcare and public health. As the virus continues to sweep the nation, shortages rage on. The public learned a hard lesson in basic economics — the concept of scarcity of resources. Tests, swabs, personal protective equipment, ventilators, medications continue to out-demand the limited supply.

However, there is one resource that is becoming so scarce that it could be classified as ‘endangered’ in the medical ecosystem: infectious disease specialists. A recent study in the Annals of Internal Medicine claimed that of the…


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Are we just vital statistics, waiting to be calculated? COVID-19 has infected and killed more than 56,000 Americans. We must remember that every single one of these deaths is a loved one — a son or daughter, a father or mother, a husband or wife, a friend, a colleague. And in the background of each one of those deaths is a healthcare worker. A doctor holding the phone allowing loves ones to say goodbye, a caring nurse holding the hand as the family cannot, a respiratory therapist ensuring they are breathing comfortably.

“How are ya holding up?” …


The World Health Organization (WHO) says there is currently “no evidence” showing that people who have recovered from the coronavirus are not at risk of becoming infected again.

“Some governments have suggested that the detection of antibodies to the SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, could serve as the basis for an ‘immunity passport’ or ‘risk-free certificate’ that would enable individuals to travel or to return to work assuming that they are protected against re-infection.” …

Jesse O'Shea MD, MSc

Physician writer.

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