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Physician Pauline W. Chen '82 COVID-19 Webinar

Physician and bestselling author Pauline W. Chen ’82 gave a webinar presentation on Wednesday, April 29, about the challenges that medical systems face meeting the needs of COVID-19 patients and preventing the spread of the disease.

More than 185 viewers tuned in to the webinar, “Medical Systems: Constraints & Opportunities,” the third of a six-part Loomis Chaffee series addressing the COVID-19 crisis.

Using the example of “Joe Pelican” as a fictional COVID-19 patient, Pauline walked listeners through a hospital’s critical care procedures in treating an acutely ill patient from the perspective of a doctor at the front line of patient care. Pauline pointed to some of the systemic and societal challenges that U.S. health systems now face that positively or negatively affect a COVID-19 patient’s experiences and outcomes.  

Noting that doctors still have much to learn about the disease, Pauline acknowledged that there are individual risk factors that increase the chances of contracting the disease and having poor outcomes. These risk factors include advanced age; pre-existing kidney, heart, and autoimmune diseases; diabetes; and obesity. Additionally, she pointed to that fact that people of color and the poor are disproportionately developing and dying from the disease compared to other populations. She shared data that suggested that constraints within U.S. social and healthcare policies contribute to this problem by limiting access to health insurance and placing financial constraints on hospitals’ ability to deliver care to underserved populations.    

Pauline said she sees hope in effective containment of the disease in places like Taiwan and Germany that have invested in widespread, state-supported testing and contract tracing. These measures enable their health systems to effectively treat a smaller number of COVID-19 patients, and allow an earlier return to regular, everyday lives.

“We don’t have to reinvent the wheel,” Pauline remarked about what needs to be done in order for states to lift lockdown restrictions and for life to get back to some semblance of normalcy.

After her presentation, Pauline answered viewer-submitted questions in a session moderated by Kendra Wiesel, director of Heath Service at Loomis Chaffee.

A student asked what students can do to help, and Pauline responded, “As students at Loomis Chaffee, staying home and maintaining social distance is a huge thing. I know it’s hard, but the individual contribution is tremendous.”  

Throughout her career as a respected transplant surgeon, medical school faculty member, author, and New York Times columnist, Pauline has worked to promote better understanding between doctors, patients, and health systems and to improve healthcare delivery through education. She currently works on the front line of patient care as an emergency services physician at VA Boston Healthcare System.  

Pauline is a member of the Loomis Chaffee Board of Trustees and is part of a family of devoted Loomis Chaffee alumni that includes her brother, Dr. Michael Chen ‘92, a plastic surgeon in California who is being deployed to care for COVID-19 patients as well. Pauline’s twin daughters are members of the Class of 2020.

Connect to a recording of Pauline’s webinar.

The next webinar in the COVID-19 Speakers series will take place on Wednesday, May 6 at 1:15 p.m. Eastern time. Jonathan Kelly ’81, a portfolio manager with Fidelity Management, will present “Financial and Global Ramifications of COVID-19.” Mat DeNunzio, economics teacher in Loomis’ Social Sciences Department, will moderate the question-and-answer session.

To learn more about the upcoming presentations and register for the webinars, connect to the COVID-19 Speakers Series webpage.