After several days of decreases, the number of COVID patients at The University of Kansas Health System has gone up today. 17 with the active virus are being treated, up from 12 yesterday. Only one of those patients is vaccinated. Two patients are in the ICU, down from six yesterday. Two are on ventilators, the same as yesterday. 21 other patients are still hospitalized because of COVID but are out of the acute infection phase, down from 24 yesterday. That’s a total of 38 patients, up from 36 yesterday. Doctors noted there have been a number of recent deaths, including five yesterday.
On today’s Open Mics With Dr. Stites, a national movement promoting equity in the workplace honors Dr. Alexander Chiu, Chair Otolaryngology. Dr. Lisa Shnayder, Otolaryngology, and Dr. Jennifer Villwock, Otolaryngology, explain why they nominated Dr. Chiu and how his efforts improve patient care. We also heard from Dr. Jaime Litvack with the national organization that honored Dr. Chiu.
Before getting to today’s topic, Steve Stites, MD, chief medical officer at The University of Kansas Health System, brought up some alarming new numbers from Colorado. The COVID cases there are the highest they’ve been since September of last year, causing ICU bed shortages and forcing some emergency departments to turn away all but the very sickest patients. He noted Arizona’s numbers are also rising. He blames it on people going back inside without mask mandates and that one third of all Americans are not vaccinated. He says it’s going to be vital to get kids five to 11 vaccinated now that it’s been approved if we’re going to make a difference in the rising numbers. He noted that vaccinations for the younger kids will begin Monday at the health system.
We began the segment by introducing Dr. Jennifer Villwock, an otolaryngology (ear nose and throat) surgeon, who was one of those who nominated Dr. Chiu for the He For She award. It recognizes a male otolaryngologist who serves as a strong mentor, collaborator, and a champion of women in that field. She gave an example of some of the microaggressions women doctors face. She described going into a patient’s room, having a big discussion about their surgery, and at the end of the conversation the patient says, “Great. When am I going to see the doctor?” She explained how Dr. Chiu instills a culture of equality in his department and why she, and other women physicians in the group, felt he was the perfect choice for this inaugural national award.
Dr. Chiu says this is the best honor he’s ever received in his career. But he stresses it’s not a celebration of him, but rather what the Department of Otolaryngology stands for at the health system, a department he notes is filled with women leaders. He says some of the women surgeons he works with are technically, and from a patient standpoint, the best surgeons and those he would want to operate on himself. He admitted that ten years ago, he wouldn’t recognize who he is now, but thanks to friends and colleagues, whom he openly encourages to help him improve, he’s a better person today. He points out that he backs his talk about equity with action and has refused to sit on national panels that were made up of only men. He says he’s had to put up with some snide comments for that but knows he’s doing the right thing. He says men in medicine have always been perceived as better than women, and it’s up to them to do everything in their power to change that perception. He says, “For someone that believes in a just world and everyone getting their fair share and getting what they deserve, gosh, I want our women surgeons to get all the credit, to have the patients benefit from their expertise and care, and to really get the word out that for men, we need to do what we can in order to make our patients understand that.”
Dr. Shnayder pointed out that women make up 51 percent of all medical students, but only 25 percent of full professors in academic medicine. She says Dr. Chiu has put policies and practices in effect to help women in the department bridge that gap and improve their opportunities for advancement. She described a study from 2017 that showed patients taken care of by female internists had better outcomes than their male counterparts as a perfect example of how strong mentorship of women doctors helps patients. She adds that Dr. Chiu’s mentorship and focus on equity has in turn helped her to be a better mentor for younger doctors.
Dr. Litvack, joining us live from the medical school at Washington State University, said she was thrilled to honor Dr. Chiu with this inaugural He For She award. She explained the origins of the award by the Women in Otolaryngology section of the American Academy of Otolaryngology. It highlights and celebrates their male colleagues who champion female otolaryngologists in the workplace. She says women in this specialty have a greater than $100,000 pay gap each year, the largest of any field in medicine. She said Dr. Chiu’s nomination stood out from the others for all he’s done for women in his department. She adds, “At the end of the day, I think we all want to take care of patients and provide the best care we can. It really comes back to respecting our teams, and this is one example of that.” She feels the more diverse the teams, and more respect among the members, the better the outcomes for patients.
Dana Hawkinson, MD, medical director of Infection Prevention and Control at The University of Kansas Health System, reaffirmed that you don’t have to wait to get a COVID shot after receiving any other vaccine like TDAP or shingles or the flu. He also explained why it’s better to get these shots in the arm than elsewhere on the body. He says now that kids 5-11 can get the vaccine, parents need to get it done, especially with cooler weather and the gathering season coming.
Dr. Stites said, “You’ve heard a lot today about how important it is not to discriminate. Remember COVID doesn’t discriminate either, doesn’t care if you’re male or female or what state you live in. It does discriminate against those who have been vaccinated and those who have not. If you’ve been vaccinated, you’re a lot safer than if you’re not. If you’re not vaccinated, there’s trouble lurking at every corner.”
Thursday, November 4 at 8:00 a.m. is the next Morning Medical Update. With CDC approval of the Pfizer vaccine for children, there are still two other vaccines awaiting approval. One involves an eight year old boy who took part in the vaccine trials. We’ll talk with his parents who are doctors here in the health system. We'll hear from the family about the decision and why they think you should get your child vaccinated.
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