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Winter 2021 - Critical Care

COVID-19: A Physician’s Perspective

Since the onset of the pandemic, Dr. Dasgupta has been actively treating patients as a pulmonary critical care physician.

Heatshot of Dr. DasguptaRAJ DASGUPTA, MD, is an assistant professor of clinical medicine at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California. His mission in life is to educate patients, students and aspiring doctors and to inspire better patient care. Since the onset of the pandemic, Dr. Dasgupta has been actively treating patients as a pulmonary critical care physician. Then in July 2020, he went from being a physician to a patient when he and his family contracted COVID-19. 

BSTQ: Tell us about the work you’ve been doing to support patients through the pandemic.

Dr. Dasgupta: From the moment this pandemic started, we’ve been trying to find the best way to help patients, and this virus has been throwing us curveballs. I think we’ve learned some of the traditional things that worked in the past for similar disorders don’t apply to COVID. So, maybe we have to think outside the box. At the same time, we’re still trying to practice evidence-based medicine. What does the data show? What does the science show? But it’s hard when we haven’t experienced a pandemic in a long time. Patients are experiencing horrible symptoms right in front of us, and sometimes we’re pushed into a corner to make a decision to start medications with limited evidence available to us. I think this whole experience for many physicians has been very humbling.

BSTQ: When did you and your family contract the virus, and what were your symptoms?

Dr. Dasgupta: It was July 2020. I felt some fatigue, more than usual. I had a little brain fog, making it hard to concentrate. I had some mild headaches. But all those symptoms went away quickly. I’m eternally grateful my kids, wife and I had a very mild course, because it could have been much worse.

BSTQ: What is giving you hope right now?

Dr. Dasgupta: I love the three preventive strategies we’ve been talking about over and over again: good hand hygiene, social distancing and wearing a mask. I also have faith that, as pulmonary critical care doctors, we are learning. As more data comes in and we share our experiences, patient care is improving. We do also have some weapons that I have faith in, whether it’s steroids, remdesivir or convalescent plasma.

BSTQ: What about a vaccine?

Dr. Dasgupta: What I’m hoping for is the vaccine will be at least 50 percent effective, safe and can be administered in a timely fashion.

BSTQ: Based on your experiences, what would you want other patients to know? 

Dr. Dasgupta: I would say enjoy every moment with your family, because things can change very quickly. I would say if you’re waiting for fevers, cough and shortness of breath, you’re going to miss an opportunity to get evaluated early. And if you ever find out you’re positive, my advice is to take a deep breath. I think trying to stay calm initially is important. 

BSTQ: In your opinion, what is our best weapon against this virus?

Dr. Dasgupta: Whether you’ve been infected with the virus or not, whether you think that you’re at high risk or low risk, I truly want to emphasize that our best weapon right now is prevention. And when we talk about wearing a mask, not only is it about safety, it’s about respect. I wear a mask to be safe and to be a role model, and because I want to respect other people.  

Trudie Mitschang
Trudie Mitschang is a contributing writer for BioSupply Trends Quarterly magazine.