I never imagined that the news I was hearing about a virus months ago would affect us so personally on so many levels. As dentists and members of the health care community, we have all had to make some really difficult decisions in the past week and surely the overload of information, opinions and responsibilities is stressful. It has been an extremely difficult week as a business owner and practicing dentist.
I personally have had moments of denial and despair, as I am sure many of you have had as well.
As I went through scenarios in my head of how I could compensate my team while the office was closed for only emergencies, how loan payments would be made and overhead would be sustained, or how I could protect myself, my team and patients from getting sick — I remembered that I am not the only one that was worrying about this.
I felt supported when I saw how hard our state and national leaders were working around the clock, and how they too, had the same burdens — in addition to helping us get accurate information, updated resources and recommendations. Seeing this helped me remember that we are all making a sacrifice and we are going through this, together.
One of the last patients I saw in my office began to cry as we said our goodbyes. I asked her if she was OK and assumed it was due to COVID-19-related stress. She told me she was headed to SMIL imaging center right after her appointment with me. She may have thyroid cancer and recurrent breast cancer; she had to beg the center to not cancel her appointment.
She was worried and fearful. It made me realize that this is an emotional time for all of us, and every single person in our state and nation is making a sacrifice or suffering too. I spoke with a friend in London, she told me that her grandparents live in Italy. Her grandparents were given another four to five days to live after being infected. I was devastated to hear that, and grateful for my health and the health of my family, friends and dental team.
Over the past few days I have had many colleagues and friends ask me what they should do about closing their office, or ask me how I am handling things. We are all wondering the unknown. When will this end? How and when can I get more masks, toilet paper or even eggs? What do I do about my team? Many of us want answers, but I don’t know if anyone has a definite answer, this is new to us all. I look at this opportunity as a time I can enjoy with my daughter, and do the things around the house I have been meaning to do for months, or years. This may be the vacation or break I have wanted but never gave myself.
Life is short, and this situation is stressful for ourselves, our practices and our families. We all have the power, strength and education to make these tough decisions we are having to make right now. We know what the right thing to do is, and sometimes the right thing is the most difficult, and many of us have made sacrifices for the greater good. Please know as a dental community, we are all in this together. With our leadership, association and the [Central Arizona Dental Society] community we are blessed to have, we will get through this extremely difficult time in our career.
Please email me if you feel as a local society, there is a specific way we may be able to support you in this time, or if you just would like to connect and talk.
Stay positive and healthy,
Dr. Onika Patel
Editor’s note: This blog post, reprinted with permission, originally appeared as a March 19 message from Dr. Patel to the members of the Central Arizona Dental Society.
Dr. Onika Patel grew up in Arizona and graduated from Arizona School of Dentistry & Oral Health in 2014. Dr. Patel is a general dentist and start-up practice owner of Minted Dental in Phoenix. When she’s not working or staying involved as president of the Central Arizona Dental Society, you can find her exploring local restaurants with her foodie husband or at Gymboree play & music with her two-year-old daughter.