Unprecedented times. Touch-and-go. A pivot environment. Call this pandemic what you want, but the bottom line is the last 11 months have been hard.
When the pandemic began accelerating through the U.S., no one knew much about what the virus was really like. I naively thought several weeks of dedicated quarantine would help us get COVID-19 under control. We all learned that wouldn’t be the case, and Charlotte went on lockdown.
At that point, I’d never done a virtual visit before, but after a weekend of training, that’s how I saw most of my patients for some time. I mourned many things, but especially not being able to connect with my patients in person. We resumed in-person visits after taking the necessary measures to ensure our offices were optimized for patient safety, which included two dedicated COVID-19 testing satellite locations. Even then, my colleagues and I worried about patients who weren’t coming in for their regular appointments, like well-visits and mammograms. This preventative care keeps our patients healthy, and staying well has never been more important than it is now.
As the director of research at Tryon Medical Partners, I was overseeing several studies in early 2020, ranging from atrial fibrillation to anxiety. That, of course, changed, too. In June, we started speaking with vaccine developers and, within the same month, began working on studies right here in Charlotte that eventually led to the vaccines now being distributed across the country.
Has that development happened quickly? Yes, but not in a way that is cause for concern. The COVID-19 vaccine has been successfully developed due to intense focus from researchers and physicians, and efforts to decrease red tape. I’ve seen it firsthand as we participated in this research with the help of the Charlotte community. Like physicians across the country, I changed my daily schedule to focus more on COVID-19 trial patients, following them through every question and every doctor’s visit.
The months of working on this research have been living quite the juxtaposition. I’d see patients who had questions about the vaccine and speak to them about the future and what was to come. Then I’d step back into our research to work directly on that future. Now we see that the future has arrived as the vaccine distribution plan is underway. It’s surreal to see our work here at Tryon and the work of our colleagues across the world paying off.
I was able to receive my own COVID-19 vaccine last week. The feeling I experienced was something that’s not in the research or measured in data tables. It’s a feeling of hope. Hope for “getting back to normal.” Hope for hugs that don’t come with second guesses. Hope for keeping my family, my patients and this community healthy. And it’s my hope that you’ll join me in getting the vaccine.
Not only will this vaccine allow us to achieve the immunity we need to get back to everyday life for ourselves, but it allows us to protect others. That’s the right thing to do from a humanitarian standpoint. From a moral standpoint. We have been in the pandemic for 11 months, and this vaccine is our chance to avoid going through it for 11 more.
Dr. Tina Kennelly is a physician-owner and the director of research at Tryon Medical Partners, an independent, Charlotte-based practice with over 90 physicians. To learn more, visit their COVID-19 resources and stay up-to-date on the information they’re sharing about the COVID-19 vaccine and distribution in Charlotte via their social media channels, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn.