This is a time for national unity, not sensationalism

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We are at war with an invisible enemy: COVID-19. This enemy is only 0.125 microns in size but has infected more than 463,000 people and killed more than 20,000 people worldwide. Physicians, nurses, and allied health care providers are all on the front lines of battle every day to care for and treat patients infected with COVID-19. We do not yet have the data on how many health care workers have been infected in the U.S., but we do know that physicians around the world have been significantly affected. China reports more than 3,300 Chinese physicians who have been infected and more than 1,700 Chinese physicians who have died due to COVID-19. More than 4,800 health care workers have been infected in Italy by the virus.

Physicians, health care professionals, and nurses have not asked for a raise, recognition, or special treatment. It is our job, as physicians and nurses, to care for your parents, your spouses, your children, your siblings, your friends, your employees, your colleagues, and our communities. Many retired physicians are coming out of retirement to help battle our invisible enemy. Senior year medical students are graduating three months early to join the front lines and help our national attack on COVID-19. Resident and fellow physicians are in training and are not being or asking to be compensated for the extra time spent during this national crisis. Physicians and health care professionals are not immune to this threatening virus. Every day when we step into the hospital or medical office, we face the real danger of contracting COVID-19: our new public enemy #1. We face shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE), which includes face shields, masks, gloves, glasses, gowns, and headcovers. Many of us are forced to reuse PPE due to this shortage as to offer some level of protection against the virus.

It is in our nature to jump in the front lines to heal and to treat our communities regardless of imminent risks of contracting or spreading COVID-19 to our families when we return home at night. After all, we all took a sacred Hippocratic Oath in medical school to “… benefit the sick, avoiding any voluntary act of impropriety or corruption.”

During this time of international crisis, some who have not been personally afflicted by COVID-19 have used this as an opportunity to spread misinformation, disinformation, and fear. Physicians, nurses, and health care professionals bridge communities. Unfortunately, ProPublica and the New York Times would rather spend their time denigrating the hard work and sacrifice of thousands of physicians worldwide by publishing articles the week of March 22nd that are not based on facts but based on fear and misguided commentary.

Their recent articles have accused some physicians of hoarding medications for themselves during our international medical crisis. Authors such as these should be ashamed of their coverage and wasted ability on sensationalism when they could be spending their time informing the public about the dangers of COVID-19 and the actions communities, hospitals, physicians, businesses, and public servants are taking on a daily basis to protect our great nation and the world from the perils of this invisible enemy.

As a physician, I urge my colleagues to keep fighting to help restore order and health in our nation and to remember the promise we made in our Hippocratic Oath: “So long as I maintain this Oath faithfully and without corruption, may it be granted to me to partake of life fully and the practice of my art, gaining the respect of all men for all time.”

There is hope we will defeat this invisible enemy and return to the normal way of American life: travel, commerce, vacation, celebrations, and sports. I ask that we help each other and not spread fear and disinformation during this period. Many people are in need, so reach out to your local hospital or medical school and ask how you can help by donating food or funds to help medical students, physician trainees, and other health care workers. This is a time of national unity and to rise as one and to share resources with each other, help the elderly, and listen to the advice of medical experts.

Shady Henien is an interventional cardiology fellow and CEO, Physician Promise.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

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