I'm in the San Francisco Bay Area - one of the COVID hot spots in the country. I happen to be the longest serving dentist on the Medical Staff at our regional Washington Hospital. I also happen to serve on the hospital district's governing body - a holding company that oversees about 10 off campus subsidiary companies. I've had a ringside seat - as COVID unfolded in our community.
In January, as COVID was starting to gain momentum, our hospital was running scared. The unknown was anticipating a surge of COVID - way beyond our resources - especially with the dire shortages of PPE. By February, their institutional suppliers were starting to experience shortages from their vendors. Our hospital - like most in the Bay Area - were sending up red flags.
By the last week of February, I reached out to our County dental society - to rally a drive to donate any surplus they might have. There are about 150+ dental office members in the hospital service area. Our pitch was - if every office could donate a few boxes of PPEs - given what we heard at the time . . . the PPEs in our storage closets - might even save the lives of our patients - who might contract the disease. What's more important?
By the first week of March - the supply chain for PPE for dental offices were starting to get backordered and in shorter supply. COVID cases were escalating all over the country. The Bay Area was dealing with quarantining a cruise ship with COVID.
By the beginning of the second week, the Governor of California issued the Executive Order. The Counties that surround the SF Bay all issued the heightened restrictions. Our area was the first in the country to institute shutdowns, before the Feds decided to move.
The early dental office donors - gave what they could. But frankly, COVID moved so fast - offices were immediately shut down. Even the owners were reluctant to expose themselves - to open their closed offices - and transport PPEs - to the suspected hotbeds - the hospitals. Realize also - the level of PPEs, at the time, were far less stringent than what we know now - what we have to use.
I tried another approach. The SF Bay area and Silicon Valley are home to the most high-tech firms - owned by Asian expatriates. They also happen to live in our communities. These high-tech firms - also use PPEs for their production lines! Dental offices - have patients from all walks of life. It's about relationships.
Realize that by the second and third week of March - the exponential assault of COVID - was scaring the heck out of this country. The Bay area and Silicon Valley were among the fastest growing hotspots in the country.
We have photos of a Silicon Valley Chinese American Computer Association that donated truckloads of PPE - donated by multiple companies.
The moral of the story - dental offices are part of a community. But also, as a member of a community - many don't exist in isolation. We develop relationships among our patients and the businesses in that same community.
As members of the Colleges and dental honor societies - we were invited as a leader of the profession. We each had a demonstration of leadership - to be invited. We didn't just watch. We did something about it. The behaviors of leadership - begins in our own backyards.
Their distribution included five area hospitals in Alameda County (San Francisco Bay Area) and San Jose. These specific hospitals were the beneficiaries - because of relationships.
As leaders, we are connectors - in our Communities and our profession.
As leaders in our profession - we do something about a challenge facing us.
Be safe. Stay Healthy.
Steven D. Chan, DDS
Fellow and Past President of the American College of Dentists