#Voices of Tianjin - Dr. Shumway


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of  Tianjin

#Voiceoftheday : Dr. Joseph Shumway 

Dr. Joseph Shumway`s history in China started about 30 years ago, when he had the opportunity to work with the World Health Organization on several projects at Peking University. Today, he works as a doctor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and is the Chief Medical Officer at Tianjin United Family Hospital. A leading medical facility, that is dedicated to provide patient-centered care, to make sure that patients receive the care that is not just effective, but also best for them. We had the opportunity to talk to him about the current Coronavirus situation and to got to know his thoughts and opinions.

As a doctor and chief medical officer, how does the situation affect your job life?

It affects me every day. In my role as chief medical officer at the Tianjin United Family Hospital, my primary responsibility is the health and safety of my patients and to make sure that we work in a responsible and professional way. In that journey I actually have to also rely heavily on my nursing colleagues. I work very hard to make sure that we have a very horizontal hierarchy. I am a worker along with everyone else. My nurses are my peers and we have to work as a team to deliver the best patient care. 

As CMOI actually have to demonstrate the care that I want other people to show the patients. I cannot have people do anything that I would not do myself. My primary role is that we have to keep things safe, and with the recent coronavirus a lot of things have changed.

You know as you walk around China almost everything is closed, but hospitals are open. When there is a crisis in society a good doctor will run to that crisis, because that is what his duty is. Other professions don't have this kind of duty, but for doctors it is really critical to do their work and to assist and protect patients. 

Most importantly, doctors should be making the efforts to keep people calm, and to help them avoid panicking. 

Did something change with how patients and doctors interact?

Absolutely. We screen people at the door, and even before coming to the hospital, we will let people fill out a questionnaire about where they traveled, if there is anyone that is sick, or if they have a fever. Further, when they come to our front door, we make sure that they go into the right entrance. If they have got a fever, if they have got a child, if they are here for vaccination, etc., we make sure that we get them into the right place so we don't expose people to unnecessary risks. We have to use a lot of strategies to protect our patients and to protect our staff as well. There is a lot more use of personal protection like masks, googles, and suits, which we use as needed to make sure we keep everyone safe. If a doctor gets sick or a doctor dies, people lose someone that could actually provide care for them. So we have to keep our staff as safe as we possibly can. 

And it is not just about the doctors or the nurses. I think everyone in the hospital functions a little differently in this new age of coronavirus, because a case can be really devastating for our hospital and would make people frightened. We have to ensure that our patients are not coming to our hospital and getting sick. Thankfully our hospital has enough recourses to keep people safe. Frankly speaking, it is also crutial for our reputation to make sure that there is no transmission of the virus inside our facility.

How do evaluate the situation?

Living on planet Earth means uncertainty and the best thing we can do is that when a storm comes, whether that storm is a hurricane or the Coronavirus, we need to make sure that we do everything we can do to be prepared, and we have to adapt. People have to realize that if they are careful and follow government recommendations, that there are things that they can do to keep themselves safe. Part of this is just doing small routine things-wear your mask, wear gloves where it is appropriate, wash your hands. 

Just because we are in the middle of the Coronavirus situation, doesn't mean that there isn't a silver lining. We have more time with our family, more time for skill and knowledge development, and all sorts of things that often we don't have time to do. There are so many comforting aspects in our lives. Seeing them can keep people away from making decisions by emotion, and gives them the opportunity to make decisions by rational thought.

Another thing that we have to take a closer look at is the mortality rate, which is 2%. But what people often don't pay attention to is the death rate by age. If you are young, particularly if you are under 40, the death rate is not 2%, but 0.2%. If you are between 40 and 50 your risk is actually 0.4%. So for patients having the Coronavirus under 50 years of age it is not a death sentence. Now if you are older than 50 the risks are higher. Same applies for people who have chronic health issues like diabetes or some immune disorder. I am not saying that people should ignore this virus, what I am saying is, that if you are young and healthy you don't need to live in fear. That is what I am concerned about the most-that people are living in unease. So whatever I can do as a doctor to help people maintain the rhythms of their lives and their normal patterns of living, I will do. I don't want people to feel powerless, because they actually have a lot of power to protect themselves.

How do you foresee the development of the situation?

I think there are 3 scenarios. 

Scenario number 1 is the good scenario, where in most places we will be able to contain the disease. The hope is that there are enough resources and people acting quickly enough everywhere to contain it. That would mean that the virus might mostly be gone by summer.

Scenario number 2 is that there aren't enough resources everywhere and the problematic pockets that have formed in Italy, South Korea and Iran suddenly explode just like Wuhan exploded in China. Consequently, they would explode into Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and the rest of South East Asia. If that happens, we are going to talk about a global pandemic with a lot more people getting sick, but still at a very low risk of dying. This then might be a little bit like the Spanish flu back in 1918. So I hope that the health authorities around the world will work together and get it contained in order to avoid such a scenario. I think China did a great job containing it, which came at a very high price. Millions of people are out of work ; millions of businesses are closed down. It will be a financial hardship for many employers. And since the government employs 40% of the people, it will be a hardship on them as well. When they tell people to stay at home for several weeks, we are talking about lost productivity and lost work that they will never get back, but still have to pay salaries for. It is a complex situation and the world really is in Chinas debt for as much work as they did, because this has cost them billions, if not trillions of dollars.  

Scenario number 3  is the middle of the road scenario, where the disease would be mostly cured, but it enters into the southern hemisphere and becomes something that never really leaves our human history. This flu, like bird flu or swine flu, could get established enough to live in the southern hemisphere during their winter, and during our winter it will come back to the northern hemisphere. If that happens, we will be dealing with this for a hundred years, which would be very unfortunate. But I think as long as we get this contained with a lot of resources we have a chance to wipe it out and get rid of it.

4 Tipps 

from Dr. Shumway

for the right self-protection


Wash your hands the right way 

Check out "The 5 steps handwashing"!


Wear your masks only for the appropriated time They are generally intended to be temporarily!


Only touch your mask by its cords 

The place where you have been breathing is most likely to be contaminated !


Wash your hands after taking the mask off!

Are there some words that you want to give people on their way?

It is really important that we fight the virus and not fight each other. One of the sad things about Coronavirus is that some people are trying to blame it on China. We don't need to use this virus as a way to fight with each other. When we take care of this problem, we are solving a one that we have as human beings on this planet that we share, and we have to learn to solve our troubles together and support each other. This is not a China problem; this is something that concerns the world.

The last thing I would say is that in the modern world, we have come to expect things to be predictable. We expect our trains, planes and subways to arrive at a certain time and to take us to a certain destination. And that is a falseness. It is what our experience has been, but most of human history is full of uncertainty. We need to except a little bit more of this uncertainty in our lives. When I think about people consuming the media, people who are obsessed with watching every news update, that is psychologically very damaging for them. 

When you are watching the media, which is full of images showing sick people or people in scary protective gear, you put your body in a state of alertness. But people need to find ways to deescalate their minds and bodies, because it is not helpful for them to be in such stress for several weeks. It just adds to their fear and anxiety. People should sleep, eat, keep themselves more hydrated, and exercise. They need to find what suits them and calms them, whether that is meditation, art, music or cooking. That is the best way for them to remain healthy in this time of uncertainty and panic.




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Thank you Sir you have set me and my family at peace.
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Well written, sir!
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