Dr. Vikram Shankar has COVID-19 advice he would like to share before he leaves for his next medical assignment in Arizona.
He recently completed his four-year residency at Kern Medical as an emergency medicine physician. My son Aaron calls Dr. Vikram Shankar “Vic”, but more importantly “friend.” They have been roommates for those past four years.
I am sure it is because of my age but “Vic” looks too young to be a doctor. Not Doogie Howser young. More like Dr. Kildare young. Because of Vic’s age there is a good chance he has never heard of classic television doctors Howser or Kildare. I bet he wished he had a vegan slice of pizza each time an emergency patient asks his age.
As some of you may know, Kern Medical's emergency department is a blessing to our community and serves as the regional leader for round-the-clock emergency services. Vic is part of that team. The Kern Medical website states: “As a teaching hospital, the best and brightest medical students compete for one of 24 highly coveted spots in their fully accredited residency program”.
According to Aaron, Vic is one of the brightest, best medical students and “the nicest, most kind and compassionate person I have ever met.” I have come to know Vic through my son Aaron.
And on what basis does Dr. Shankar offer his advice to us?
One basis is that at Kern Medical where he is part of the emergency medical team, he has seen the daily devastation COVID-19 can bring. The growing number of cases should be of concern to all.
The other basis is Vic recently returned from a New York hospital to help with treating COVID-19 patients. For two weeks he voluntarily went into what many considered to be America’s epicenter for the growing COVID-19 pandemic. He worked primarily in the intensive care unit managing patients on ventilators.
"The percentage of people successfully weaned off ventilators was low. At times there would be a sense of hopelessness and futility. But we are trained to do our best until the last moment," Vic said.
He added, "Anyone who has run a cardiac arrest unit knows that until the moment you call 'time of death,' you give it 100 percent. The hardest part for me is always the toll sickness and death took on their loved ones”.
This setting was particularly challenging for Vic and other emergency staff because family would desperately want to see their loved ones. Pandemic visitation constraints made that impossible.
"When talking to family over the phone, it's always hard to not be able to provide the hope they are seeking," Vic said.
You can’t compare New York to Bakersfield but I asked Vic what lessons he learned that might be applied to Kern County.
He said: “Uncertainty has and will always be part of our daily lived experience. Whether it is the uncertainty of not knowing whether you'll get into medical school, the uncertainty of not knowing if you'll have a job tomorrow, the uncertainty of your personal relationships, or the uncertainty of the health of a loved one. The important thing is we function and make decisions aligned with those values that matter most to us… compassion, service, health and well-being”.
Before he leaves Bakersfield, I asked what message does he have for Kern County?
“We are seeing daily cases of COVD-19 at Kern Medical and it's easy to become complacent over time," he said. "This epidemic has taught us our personal health is very much linked to the health of those around us…our work colleagues, our elderly parents at home. By staying vigilant, taking personal responsibility, and practicing good hygiene — washing hands, wearing masks, not touching your face — we are all frontliners.”
Vic’s next port of call is an Native American reservation in Arizona as their Emergency Medicine Physician. He is hoping to be there for two years and then fulfill one of his medical goals and join the Doctors Without Walls team.
Aaron adds: "I am sad and happy I met a person like Vic. I am sad to see him go but I know the world needs more Vics.”
Like you said son, …one of the brightest, best medical students and "the nicest, most kind and compassionate person I have ever met."