Archive for March, 2021

The Legacy of the Covid-19 by Jan Jennings

March 31st, 2021

The title of this missive would suggest that the Covid-19 nightmare is over.  Not at all.   Here is a statistical update.  Worldwide, as of March 1, 2021, there have been 2,650,000 deaths and 120,000,000 cases. In the United States, there have been 534,000 deaths and 2,940,000 cases.  To put this in perspective, in the six years of World War II, the United States lost 407,316 U.S. servicemen and women.

The coronavirus has been an unbelievable disaster throughout the world, but the American citizens have borne a disproportionate share of the pain.  Why?

There are probably many reasons, but two come to mind:

Citizen Response:  I have family members who say they would rather have the disease than the vaccine.  That is a quaint position.  The only problem with this position is that one of the side effects of the coronavirus is death.  Several days ago, I watched my beloved Pittsburgh Pirates in a Spring Training game at LECOM Field in Bradenton,  The television camera drifted into the outfield and focused on a bar and grill above the centerfield wall.   There were 25 patrons enjoying the game.  Only three were wearing essential protective masks.   What were they thinking about?  The coronavirus and the more recent variants are so lethal, particularly in Florida.   I love a good baseball game, but not enough to put my life and the lives of others in danger under the current circumstances.

Former Administration: I have no interest in politicizing this missive.  The fact is that the Former President had advanced knowledge that the coronavirus was coming to the United States and that it was lethal. In an interview which appears in Bob Woodward’s second book about President Trump, he is quoted as saying “I did not want to reveal this information to the American People because I did not want to set off a panic.”  

 Later, various arbitrary dates were selected when the disease would simply disappear.   It was also suggested we might inject into our bodies various chemical or biological agents.    

Where did the coronavirus come from?  The first known infections from SARS-CoV-2 were discovered in Wuhan, China.   Because many of the early infected patients were workers at the Huanan Seafood Market, it has been suggested that the virus might have originated from the market.  However, additional research revealed that the disease may have been introduced into the Huanan Seafood Market by anyone from any country.  The actual genesis of the coronavirus remains a mystery, but there is no proof the disease was manufactured as a biological weapon.

 Covid-19 or the coronavirus has inflicted incalculable mass destruction to the world economy, over $17T in the United States alone as well as extraordinary devastation to public health and citizen safety.

 We are now in a race to develop effective and safe vaccines for the mutations that are occurring in South America, South Africa, England, California, and other geographic areas as we work to immunize all willing citizens.   Why is this so important?   We only need to look back to the Flu of 1918 and 1920.   One pig in Iowa may have been responsible for 50,000,000 world-wide deaths.  In the United States, 20-30 percent of all citizens contracted the disease and 690,000 U.S. citizens died.  The only way America could achieve herd immunity was by so many of its citizens contracting the disease and surviving, and even then mask-wearing and social distancing was controversial. 

 Immunization for Covid-19 offers the hope that we might achieve herd immunity before the end of 2021.  It is by no means certain. 

 

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GUNS and MASKS

March 28th, 2021

I’ve been trying to get my head around mass-shootings for a long time. With more than 100 gun-related deaths every day in this country, and even when our children are being shot in their classrooms, we are still a country divided over the majority of gun laws.

In spite of the fact that 33 percent of mass shooters were individuals who were legally prohibited from owning or possessing a firearm, many of us remain steadfastly resolved that no gun law is a good gun law. Some believe politicians want to take away all of their guns and restricting gun rights in any way is not only unacceptable, it is un-American.

Well, guess what, I have no plans to say anything about the increased numbers of deaths that have occurred since military-style weapons and high-capacity magazines were legalized, and I’m not going to talk about the fact that 54 percent of mass shooting incidents were domestically related.  I’m also going to carefully avoid the data point that a large of number of the shooters are mentally ill young, white men.

Why? You might ask. Well, it’s because I have a bigger fish to fry. Actually, it’s not even a fish.  It’s a freakin’ whale.  We’re going once again to discuss masks. I know. Not again.

In my research I came across the description of the mind-set of those individuals who seek personal autonomy at all costs, those people who argue in favor of total civil liberties and a reduction or elimination of the power of the state. The magic phrase that seems to have recently been cut out of their philosophical conviction is a restricting clause that says, “Unless it damages or interferes with the public good, or the benefit or well-being of the public.”

That’s the whale, the elephant in the middle of the room, or the Babe Ruth candy bar in the swimming pool. “Unless it interferes with the public good.”

Here’s a question for you. Why is it a problem to drive impaired? Why is it illegal to yell fire in an auditorium where there is no fire?  I think I know. It’s because it interferes with the public good. Any one of those things could result in someone else being negatively impacted because of a decision to drive drunk or cause a panic in a crowded room.

If you live in Pennsylvania and want to ride your motorcycle without a helmet, the state says that’s okay, but if you are severely injured and live, there’s a chance the state might have to provide medical care, financial support, and public assistance for you for the rest of your life. In other words, if you do it only to you, the state will pay for that, but don’t do it to other people, the public good.

Back to the whale. So, when did it become acceptable to defy “the public well-being” by refusing to wear a mask during a pandemic? When HIV/AIDS was first recognized, people were arrested for spitting on other people and charged with attempted murder, but if you don’t wear a mask, that’s somehow supposed to express your independence, your freedom, your libertarianism?  Instead, it allows COVID and now its mutations to spread. And guess what? That spread has killed nearly 514,000 Americans and continues to kill every day. WTH? Is it machismo? Or machisma?

When did knowingly potentially infecting someone that results in their illness or death become acceptable? When did freedom to kill become part of the public good? What if we just called it what it is, not selfishness or stubbornness, or independence, but attempted murder?

Only about 33,000 people die from guns in the U.S. in a year. That’s 6 percent of those killed by COVID this year. I’m sorry. Logic is not part of either equation, but sociopathic attempted murder might be.

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Serendipity, Devine Intervention, or Karma – In Memorium Dr. McLeod

March 20th, 2021

In 1999 as the relatively new CEO of Windber Medial Center, I was invited to have dinner at the home of one of our physicians.

I was seated beside Congressman, John Murtha.  As I began to elaborate on my dreams  for the hospital, Mr. Murtha said, “Nick, why don’t you check to see if you can find someone who will work with Windber from Bethesda or Walter Reed? Then, maybe I can help.”

Although I knew he was a U.S. Representative, I had no idea he oversaw the Appropriations Subcommittee which funded the Department of Defense.

My board chair, Judge David Klementik and I visited the then Bethesda Naval Hospital where the liaison officer we met with diplomatically explained the Navy was not interested in working on research projects.

A few months later, I decided to cold-call the former Walter Reed Hospital. It’s important to interject that I was not a Veteran and had never been there  before.  Consequently, I had no knowledge about protocols, chain-of-command, or even who to contact.

 

Pre-9-11, things were still pretty informal for visitors at Walter Reed. So, I cautiously walked into the ground floor of the hospital. As I entered the building, the realities of military medicine hit me. The place was packed.

Almost immediately, I saw a white coat in front of me with the letters M.D. embroidered at the end of the name. It was one Colonel David G. McLeod, MD.

 

Considering how many doctors worked in that building and how many would not have acknowledged me, the next few moments positively changed not only my life but possibly the lives of thousands and maybe someday millions of people forever.

I said, “Hello, doctor, my name is Nick Jacobs, and I am the President of a hospital in South Central Pennsylvania. Our Congressman had recommended that I come to Walter Reed to see if there was anyone here who might be interested in working with us.” 

Dr. McLeod replied, “What’s your Congressman’s name?” I said, “Jack Murtha.” He looked at me and said, “Follow me.”

Little did I know that saying Mr. Murtha’s name would get that type of reaction from the first doctor I ran into at Walter Reed.

Of course, I also did not know this amazing Vietnam War Veteran, attorney, researcher, and physician had founded the Center for Prostate Disease Research at the Uniformed Services University. There was also no way for me to have known that he knew exactly what to do for both Windber and Congressman Murtha.

Most importantly, I didn’t realize he would go on to guide another young physician, Craig Shriver, to assist in forming the Clinical Breast Care Project, a Congressional initiative which would collect over 100,000 plus breast tissue samples used in part by the National Cancer Institute to map the Human Breast Cancer Genome.

It was about a year later when I first met Dr. Shriver. He came to formally ask me what I wanted to do with the grant that our hospital was about to receive for the study of breast cancer. 

Having been a candidate for the CEO position at a research hospital where I had seen my very first genetic analysis laboratory seven-years earlier, I looked at him and said, “I want Windber to partner with Walter Reed to become the genetic breast cancer research center for the Department of Defense.” 

He looked very thoughtfully at me and said, “As long as we’re researching genetics, there’s a new science called proteomics that we should study, too.”  My reply was, “Yes, we should. I don’t really know what either of them are, so you be the doctor, and I’ll be the administrator.”  

It was Dr. McLeod who then helped Dr Shriver operationalize the Clinical Breast Care Project. 

Thank you, Colonel McLeod. “You continue to make lives better every day.”

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The Bookcase

March 3rd, 2021

Discovering knowledge on bookcases

Nick Jacobs

Published Tue Mar 02, 2021 8:23 PM EST

One morning my back, leg and knee felt like I was either in my 70s or a retired professional football player. One outta two ain’t bad, and no, I never played professional football. There was no valid reason for these creaky feelings based on activity, inactivity or injury.

Consequently, I attributed it to being an ole dog and headed not to the couch but went instead to our post-flood basement hangout where we had recently installed a set of bookcases that contained at least half of the books we had collected over the past several years.

I’m sitting across from this eclectic compendium of books that range from the complete collection of Mark Twain to the Bible. There are dozens of books about running hospitals, marketing, self-help, cooking, deep science, leadership, and plenty more that are biographies and autobiographies. We have John Adams, Lee Iacocca, Jerry Seinfeld, Abraham Lincoln, and even Steve Jobs.

What isn’t visible in this collection of stuff ranging from modern to ancient is impact. What’s not visible is the collection of thoughts, ideas, and that very ethereal thing most of us long for, knowledge. What have we learned from exposure to the writing contained in these books and how has it impacted our lives? This collection represents less than one-fifth of the books we’ve consumed over the past 50 years, and now many of our reads occur on Kindles or iPads and don’t even result in collectibles.

Where am I going with this? I’ve met thousands of people in my life who have almost zero intellectual curiosity, people who get their information from the equivalent of tabloids. And when it comes time to share conversations with them, I’m always stunned by how dug-in they are on their beliefs and opinions. The one thing I’ve learned from the thousands of books I’ve read is to keep an open mind. These books have contributed to two very important aspects of my personality: be humble and flexible because no one has all the answers.

As a young child, I longed for stability in the form of yes and no, black and white, go or no go answers that gave me absolute direction and certainty of process. My church, parents, teachers and their rules were the basis of my survival. By the time I got to high school and was exposed to classical literature, music, thinking, and the questions each evoked, I knew I was headed into a sea of change, challenge, and hopefully a mental synthesis of new ideas and premises.

Then I hit college where philosophy, literature and science classes all took a piece of my belief system and made me seriously question where I was going and why. And that was a good thing.

I learned about situational ethics, semantics, modern music fans impressionistic artists. These exposures to what some would consider toxic pieces of life, art and literature taught me that no one way is the right way, and we have the ability to design our own futures. They taught me the relevance of being open-minded.

As we head into what could be the Rise of the Phoenix from a psycho-social, cultural and business perspective, and move through what is hopefully the end of this particular pandemic, we have the opportunity to revisit our beliefs. Our beliefs that in some cases were carefully drilled into us by people who could gain financially by our cooperative acquiescence to their stories.

Take a step back and explore everything you’ve read, been taught and heard, and realize that middle ground is a great place to be. Open-minded middle ground is a happy place to take refuge while we sort out the realities of our new-found selves, and work toward some type of peaceful co-existence.

This journey is hard enough. Let’s be friends and embrace our commonalities. And remember, the most rewarding life is a purpose-driven life.

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