Tampa General CEO John Couris: Taking a step back to reflect amid COVID-19

There is no question that COVID-19 has changed the way we operate day to day. One thing that has remained constant — and should be respected — is the unpredictability of it. 

There is still so much we don’t know. What we can say for sure is that each number that you see reported in the news is a person — an aunt, grandparent, sibling, spouse, friend or colleague. But the numbers have been the focus, not so much the stories behind the numbers. That is what needs to be shared. 

So while we cannot control much in this pandemic, what we can do is humanize the numbers and reflect on the millions of lives impacted by COVID-19. That is why over the next few weeks, I am going to share reflections from those that deal with this virus day in and day out. Starting with me.

Let me just start by saying that one thing the virus has taught many of us is the importance of staying healthy. It has become a big focus for me, which is why on most days, I walk. I walk a lot — if time permits, that can be anywhere between 5 to 10 miles a day around Tampa Bay. Not only has it allowed me to gain a newfound appreciation for Tampa and South Tampa specifically, but I find that walking helps me stay on top of the virus, thinking about how I can keep my team, my patients and my community safe. The truth is, for many of us in healthcare, navigating through this time seems like a never-ending journey. But that's for another day. 

I have been in healthcare for a long time, and I will tell you two things: I have never witnessed more resilience and determination in my fellow colleagues. I have also never been more concerned. This is a global health crisis, and the virus has remained elusive in terms of the most effective treatment. 

I worry every day — how many of my community members will become sick, my team and even my family. I am a husband and a father, and I know my job puts us at risk. It's hard not to think about that as I leave for the hospital each morning.

The virus is unpredictable, and I learned fairly quickly that it does not merely bring down the elderly and those with higher health risks. We have had healthy young folks on ventilators, and then there was my uncle. A tough Boston guy, in his early 70s living in a nursing home with diabetes that honestly, he has not done a great job of managing. When my cousin called to tell me he had COVID, I feared the worst. But that was March, and now it is August, and don’t you know, he recovered and is as feisty as ever — being especially thankful that the Sox are back on TV.

While I can continue to share my thoughts and perspective on the issue, I think it is important to hear from others, including those in direct patient care. Over the next few weeks, I am going to share some reflections of my fellow team members as well as continuing to offer my own insights — what I remember from those early days when COVID first hit, up until today. It is a transformative and ever-changing time, something that should be documented. 

 

John Couris is the president and CEO of Tampa General Hospital. You can read more from John at changewithcouris.com.

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