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A Plea for Mutual Respect & Understanding in the Time of COVID-19

June 12, 2020

by DAVID BERGER, M.D.

As our nation surpassed 100,000 deaths related to SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19), I have been reflecting on how things have unfolded over the past few months. When we look back on this tragic time, it will likely become apparent what we, individually and as a country, could have done differently to lessen the number of fatalities and reduce the economic impact. Now is a critical time to consider how our actions going forward will affect both the people we know as well as those we do not.

Soon after we opened Wholistic Pediatrics & Family Care in 2005, I started to grasp what a unique opportunity we have because of the variety of people we serve. Shortly after opening the practice, two people who otherwise would likely have never interacted, were sitting in our waiting room talking to each other. One was a woman holding a book by former Fox News host, Bill O’Reilly; the other was a man with dreadlocks and many visible tattoos. They were discussing politics and healthcare, and I could tell they had been speaking for a while in a deep and respectful manner. I thought to myself, “I wonder how many other places there are that a conversation like this would ever happen?” 

Since then, I have consciously strived to create an atmosphere of acceptance and respect among all our patients. I view our practice as a good example of the American experiment known as the “great melting pot.”  Over the years I have understood that I am in a unique position because people from a wide variety of beliefs and backgrounds trust me and value my opinion.

Fast forward to 2020. 

In today’s world it often seems we are living on parallel planets, where the vast partisan/cultural divide has led to two very different information streams and accompanying plans of action. It often seems that if one side of the divide stated the grass is green, people on the “other side” would inevitably insist it is yellow. The notion that one side is unequivocally right and the other is unequivocally wrong, no matter the topic, is causing destructive animosity and division in our society. Quite frankly, I am saddened and tired by all the vitriol. 

If you have ever heard me speak, you have likely heard me discuss the importance of informed consent, which entails getting accurate information in order to make an educated decision and determine a course of action. When it comes to COVID-19, the actions we take to protect ourselves and those around us are very important, sometimes even the difference between life and death. 

As a formally-trained medical expert, I strongly believe some things can be factually proven, and are not subject to opinion based on political or cultural beliefs. That said, sometimes we do not have enough facts available to make the best decisions, such as during the first few months of a pandemic. 

What we do know though, is there are simple, effective measures that can prevent the spread of SARS-CoV-2, such as proper physical distancing and wearing masks when in public indoor spaces or when staying six-feet apart is not possible. 

When it comes to evaluating the efficacy of a medication or vaccine, we need sufficient data to determine whether it is safe and effective before we can make an informed choice on how to proceed.

As we relaunch newsletter and blog series, we aim to share with you our insights and expertise on matters affecting our lives. We know not everyone will agree with everything we write; however, we urge our community  to remain focused on our common shared value — promoting health from a wholistic perspective, and protecting all people from harm. 

We can respectfully disagree without being disagreeable. In the end, I implore everyone to be kind to each other; respect each other; and try to see things from another person’s perspective. Keeping an open mind and following the facts can help shape your view of the world. I know it has mine.

Respectfully,

Dr. David