For the past few months, we have read and heard just about everything on the Covid-19 virus pandemic that has now impacted and remains to impact the entire world. Confinement, quarantine, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), life has organized itself around this new normal.
In this exclusive interview Christopher Knight, CEO, iPMI Magazine, met with Dr. Ian Russinoff, Medical Director at Generali Global Assistance Travel Assistance and GMMI, Inc. to get his perspective and experience of the virus both as an ER doctor and a patient.
Tell us about your Covid-19 experience being an ER doctor?
Before my diagnosis, I had already personally witnessed both extremes of the illness. I saw many minimally symptomatic patients and a handful of critically ill. I must confess, knowing that this is a novel virus, I was concerned where I would land on the spectrum. I feared that I would be among the healthy young people to succumb to the illness. At times, I had very vivid images of the extremely ill that were losing their personal battle. Fortunately, I had a very mild case and recovered quickly. As an ER doctor with first-hand knowledge and experience that the vast majority of patients did just fine, I knew that statistically speaking the odds were in my favor.
While you are now feeling better, you were diagnosed with COVID-19 due to your exposure to the virus. Can you tell us about your patient experience?
I was fortunate in that testing for front line workers was readily available. The hospital really made us a priority and had processes in place to expedite the diagnosis. I received daily phone calls from the hospital checking on my progress and expressing their concern. I certainly felt very supported and taken care of throughout the entire illness and recovery.
The crisis being somehow behind us, what lessons have you learned?
I must say that I have a new respect for the power and influence that a microscopic illness can have on society. We have heard of swine flu, H1N1 and other viral illnesses over the years. While educating myself on these diseases, I never could have anticipated that the effects would be this dramatic. In many ways, the world has been turned upside down. It will be very interesting to see how the general public prepares for the annual flu season. In addition, it will be interesting to see how we prepare for the next novel virus. While this pandemic started as a public health crisis, it has evolved into a socioeconomic disaster.
Were there any specific complexities you were confronted with since the beginning of this pandemic both from the doctor and/or patient perspective?
I actually didn’t feel very ill when I had the virus. I had fatigue and a mild cough but no fever or shortness of breath. I contemplated whether or not I really needed the test. I definitely felt well enough to work. Ultimately, out of concern for my patients, co-workers, and my family, I decided to get tested. With regards to my family, I was already self-isolating in the guest room in the house for about 3 weeks prior to having any symptoms. Once I started to see the cases in the emergency department, my wife and I felt it was best to avoid family contact as much as possible.
Have you made any changes in your routines since you have returned back to work after recovering from the virus?
I am still taking the exact same precautions from day one. There is still so much uncertainty and unknown about this virus. Do I have effective antibodies? If so, how long will they last? Are they 100% protective? Out of constant concern for my family, patients, and colleagues, I am very attentive to maintain the strictest precautions with regards to handwashing, PPE, and general awareness of my surroundings. I maintain the same routine of getting undressed in the garage, immediately throwing my clothes in the washing machine, and heading to the shower before interacting with any family members. I believe this practice will continue indefinitely.
If you help clarify a myth about COVID-19 in any of the realms that you have experienced it as a doctor and patient, what would it be?
A few months ago, the obvious question was: Am I going to end up on a ventilator? While that is a legitimate concern for people with comorbidities like diabetes and hypertension, particularly of an older age, the vast majority of positive patients will be just fine. Again, I was very fortunate to have mild symptoms, but it is a fact that the fevers associated with Covid are very intense. Anyone that contracts the virus should be mentally prepared for 2 weeks of symptoms, but they should remain cautiously optimistic that they will recover without any complications.
Are we prepared if we were to face another wave of COVID 19 cases in the fall?
We have significant advantages if there is another wave in the fall. Testing processes are much improved. Recovered patients have antibodies to donate. Medications like Remdesivir have shown promise. We are aware that some of the initial treatments do not show a significant benefit. The disease course has become somewhat more predictable. Knowledge is power, and in the infancy of Covid-19, there was clearly a knowledge deficit. There is also strength in numbers. Simply by seeing and personally knowing so many recovered people, we will be much more confident for the rematch.
We previously referred to this situation as a crisis – and looking at global and/or local events – how do we manage the storms ahead from here?
This is a great question. In retrospect, would we (federal and local government) make a lot of the same decisions? While I do not believe we will get a clear answer to that question, we might be able to infer if, God forbid, another pandemic occurs. The long term socioeconomic, medical, and psychological effects remain to be seen. Did the fact that this is an election year contribute to certain decisions? Are some of the far-fetched conspiracy theories not too far-fetched after all? I believe the long-term lessons are still evolving, and it is still too premature to assume how we may manage the storms ahead.
About GMMI, Inc. & Generali Global Assistance Travel Assistance
GMMI and Generali Global Assistance are part of the Europ Assistance – Generali Group and headquartered in South Florida, USA.
GMMI is a leading ISO 9001:2015 & ISO/IEC 27001:2013 certified provider of medical cost containment, travel assistance and medical risk management solutions designed to set the industry standard for quality customer service, medical management, and competent claims administration worldwide. By applying leading technologies and a consultative approach, we work efficiently and effectively to deliver high value-added services that provide our Clients with global solutions for managing medical cases, providing travel assistance and containing medical costs since 1992.
The travel assistance unit of Generali Global Assistance (GGA) has been focused on the care of travelers since 1963. Our North America office provides 24-hour global value-added travel assistance solutions to leisure and business travelers on behalf of their insurers and employers. With a local presence in 200 countries and territories worldwide and 35 assistance centers staffed with multilingual assistance coordinators and case managers as well as medical and security staff, Generali Global Assistance is here to help you obtain the care and attention you need in case of an emergency while traveling.
About Dr. Ian Russinoff
Dr. Ian Russinoff is an attending physician and the Vice Chairman of the Emergency Department at the Cleveland Clinic Florida. In addition to his duties in the hospital, Dr. Russinoff is the Assistant Medical Director of the Broward Sheriff’s Office (BSO), helping to oversee the medical protocols of the largest EMS agency in the county. He has been practicing emergency medicine for almost twenty years, including medical school at SUNY Downstate and residency at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York City. Dr. Russinoff enjoys being a leader in the field of Emergency Medicine and EMS. He has been tireless in his efforts to improve the practice every step along the way. His dedication and passion are obvious to his patients, the nurses and the paramedics. Dr. Russinoff leads by example, knowing that is the only way to implement positive change. Dr. Russinoff is the Medical Director for GMMI, Inc. & Generali Global Assistance Travel Assistance.