Dr. Fadi Haddad is an infectious disease specialist and the chair of infection control at Sharp Grossmont Hospital in San Diego. I recently got the opportunity to interview him about the relationship of COVID-19 with socioeconomic status.
At Sharp, Dr. Haddad sees a variety of different situations in both inpatient and outpatient settings and often gets patients through consultation of other physicians. He helps with diagnosing a certain condition or providing the proper treatment for an infectious disease. Other physicians sometimes call him for “positive blood cultures, urine cultures, and multi drug resistant infections.” As the chair of infection control, Dr. Haddad also takes care of the infection control precautions in the hospital to make sure that the staff are not put at risk and is in charge of making sure that antibiotics are being used properly and correctly at the hospital.
My first question to Dr. Hadad was whether COVID-19 has affected a certain community of people more than others. Dr. Haddad said that at the beginning of the pandemic, essential workers were getting diagnosed with COVID-19. However as the pandemic progressed, he saw more people who “were connected to Mexico [and] travelled to Mexico” being diagnosed. The outbreak in Mexico also had a powerful effect on the areas near the border of San Diego. Furthermore, he added that “we have seen disproportionate infection rates in the Hispanic population... in East County of San Diego.” When talking about cultural impacts, Dr. Haddad said that the Hispanic community is made up of large families, and when they come to visit a patient, it makes it hard to social distance, which increases the spread in the family. Additionally, a lot of cases are due to people who live in overcrowded areas. These people are at risk because they cannot properly social distance and that the virus can spread very easily without proper social distancing.
I also asked Dr. Haddad about the politicalization of wearing masks in the United States. While he said that he does not have a lot of knowledge about this, he stressed the importance of wearing masks during the pandemic. There is no proper way we can stop the spread of the virus until the vaccine comes out. The best way to slow it down at the moment is to wear masks and properly social distance until people are vaccinated.
When asked about whether he has seen an example of a social or economic disparity when practicing medicine, Dr. Haddad mentioned that he has seen disparities in his field of medicine, but they have gotten even larger because of COVID-19. The cost of the treatment for the virus is very high: “The medicine is about $3000, the cost of hospitalization in the ICU can be up to $10,000 per day… and this is without the other services [like] radiology, the specialist care, [and] the doctor’s fees… and if you end up on the ECMO machine… that can be in the hundred thousands range.” Government funding to hospitals has had to increase so that the hospitals can survive during a time like this. In addition, the expensive treatment for COVID-19 has widened the gap greatly compared to before the pandemic. It has caused people, especially those affected, to be immensely hurt economically.
The final question I had for Dr. Haddad was what advice would he give to future medical and healthcare professionals. Dr. Haddad said that a good doctor understands the society around them and where they live. A doctor has to know the type of people they will see and have to get to know their community. In addition, a good doctor “needs to advocate for the healthcare of [their] community… and put a foundation.” Through this, the community will have better trust in the people that care for their health. He emphasized the importance of future doctors getting experience through shadowing, visiting a place where healthcare is provided, or going to an underserved area and seeing how healthcare is provided there. It is essential in understanding the relationship between the professional and the patient. Finally, he stressed the importance of understanding that medicine is more than just books and that one has to understand what is going around them to get a full grasp on it.
I would like to thank Dr. Haddad for letting me interview him.