Wednesday, September 01, 2021

COVID Observations From a General Surgeon

Dr. Jeffrey Dietzenbach is a general surgeon at The Iowa Clinic. He shared the following observations on Facebook last Wednesday, August 25. He prefaced his post with these words: "This is my first Facebook post ever, I hope I’m doing this right! Also, I am not an expert on COVID-19 or infectious disease."


This pandemic has been long, difficult, polarizing, historical, exasperating, and confusing. I can complain about it . . . but not that much. I have had no loved ones or close friends who have become extremely sick or died from this virus. I personally have not contracted this virus. As a general surgeon, the only care I have had to administer to a COVID-positive patient is the occasional appendectomy or gallbladder removal. I’ve been lucky enough to not have to spend countless hours in the ICU managing ventilators and medical care. Those healthcare providers are the real heroes.

One thing that has really perplexed me throughout this whole pandemic, though, is the lack of humility. Namely, the lack of humility when it comes to expert opinion.

I like to travel. Do I get on the tarmac and inspect the mechanics of the plane or discuss the flight plan with the pilot or tower? Nope. I’m not an expert in that. I have the humility and faith that those people are experts and will get me where I need to be safely.

I like a nice yard. Do I tell my lawn care company how much nitrogen and weed-control to use? Nope. I don’t have the time to devote to learn about that. I’ll leave it up to the lawn care expert.

I hope I never get sued. Would I defend myself in court with a total lack of legal knowledge? Nope. I’ll leave that up to the legal experts.

When my car needs to be fixed, do I tell the mechanic how to repair it? Nope. I know nothing about auto repair.

Do I walk around talking about COVID-19 and vaccinations and posting constantly about it? Nope, I’m not an infectious disease doctor or a pulmonologist/critical care doctor.

I get it. Frustration about closing schools and businesses, social distancing, limiting travel, using masks, etc. is understandable. The benefit and philosophy behind some of these things are not black and white. The thing I don’t understand is this distrust of expert healthcare providers and lack of humility.

Biostatistics is not easy.

True research (not just looking through Google and social media) and reviewing data and studies and articles is not easy.

Believe me, as a General Surgery Program Director, we hold six journal clubs a year reviewing the most recent surgical literature. I have the humility to know that I am not a statistician and by no means an expert in this field.

You can find an “expert” on COVID-19 anywhere. Online, at work, at the dinner table, on MSN or Fox News, and especially on social media. I find it interesting that there are lots and lots of infectious disease specialists and pulmonologists across this planet and I don’t recall any of them suggesting anything that was counter to the most recent accepted best practices, based on the most updated information we had at that moment in time.

Yes, things change. The virus changes, data and statistics change, discoveries change and new information emerges. One thing that doesn’t change is the expertise of the scientists, infectious disease doctors and pulmonologists. I’m a doctor and I think I’m a pretty good one (one could even say an “expert” at surgery), but when it comes to my kids’ health, I’m going to follow my pediatrician’s recommendations. When it comes to a vaccine, I’m going to follow the generally accepted recommendations by the EXPERTS.

And . . . when I start to see brown spot on my lawn, I’m calling my lawn care guy.

Ask yourself how many times you put your life at risk by humbly and faithfully putting your trust in a person. Eating at a restaurant, walking over a grate on the sidewalk, taking an Uber, or for God’s sake going on a carnival ride at the Iowa State Fair! This doesn’t make you a “sheeple.” This happens all the time, every day.

All I’m asking for is a little humility and trust, not in me or this post, but in experts.

Jeffrey Dietzenbach, MD
via Facebook
August 25, 2021

Related Off-site Links:
Virus Surge Breaks Hospital Records Amid Rising Toll on Kids – The Associated Press via Snopes (August 26, 2021).
100,000 More COVID Deaths Seen Unless U.S. Changes Its Ways – Carla K. Johnson and Nicky Forster (The Associated Press, August 26, 2021).
COVID Vaccines Show No Signs of Harming Fertility or Sexual Function – Emily Willingham (Scientific America, August 24, 2021).
All of Minnesota Is Now a COVID-19 Hotspot – Shaymus McLaughlin (Bring Me the News, August 30, 2021).
The Troubled History Of Vaccines And Conflict Zones – Madeline Dexter (NPR News, August 29, 2021).
History Won’t Help Us Now: We Have No Historical Precedent for This Moment – Howard Markel (The Atlantic, August 19, 2021).
Unvaccinated COVID-19 Patients Strain Alabama Hospitals Amid Warning of “Potentially Apocalyptic” Crisis – Brett Wilkins (Common Dreams, August 19, 2021).
Alabama Hospitals Run Out of ICU Beds. Chaplain Says It's a Frightening Situation – A. Martinez (NPR News, August 20, 2021).
Minnesota ICU Beds Filling Again With COVID-19 Patients, Some From Out of State – Jeremy Olson (Star Tribune, August 20, 2021).
U.S. Hospitalizations of People Under 50 at Highest Levels Since Start of PandemicThe Guardian (August 19, 2021).
As a Doctor in a COVID Unit, I’m Running Out of Compassion for the Unvaccinated. Get the Shot – Anita Sircar (Los Angeles Times, August 17, 2021).
As Covid-19 Cases Rise, Global Task Force Lays Out How to Avert Future Pandemics – Jessica Corbett (Common Dreams, August 14, 2021).
America’s Coronavirus Outbreak Is Now a Patchwork of Highly Vaccinated States and Pockets of the Raging Delta Variant – Barbara Miller (ABC News, August 15, 2021).
The Far Right’s Deadly Embrace of Anti-Vaccine Stupidity – John Feffer (Common Dreams, August 14, 2021).
How the Pandemic Now Ends – Ed Yong (The Atlantic, August 12, 2021).
What’s Driving Vaccine Denial? – Keith A. Reynolds (Medical Economics, August 10, 2021).
Angry at the Unvaccinated? Here’s a Better Way – Peter Bregman and Howard Jacobson (CNN Opinion, August 5, 2021).
How to Talk to Someone Who’s Hesitant to Get the COVID-19 Vaccine – Elaine K. Howley (U.S. News, May 12, 2021).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Richard LaFortune: Quote of the Day – August 20, 2021
Something to Lament
A Pandemic Year
Out and About – Spring 2020
A Prayer in Times of a Pandemic
The Calm Before the Storm
Hope and Beauty in the Midst of the Global Coronavirus Pandemic
Marianne Williamson: In the Midst of This “Heartbreaking” Pandemic, It’s Okay to Be Heartbroken
Sonya Renee Taylor: Quote of the Day – April 18, 2020
Examining the Link Between Destruction of Biodiversity and Emerging Infectious Diseases
The Lancet Weighs-in on the Trump Administration's “Incoherent” Response to the Coronavirus Pandemic
Memes of the Times

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