Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Coming home

After eleven months of living and working in Salt Lake City, I returned to my home in Washington, DC in mid-June and officially resumed my faculty and clinical positions at Georgetown University Medical Center and Medstar on July 1. In the past week, I've been catching up with patients whom I hadn't seen (virtually or in person) for a year, meeting the new family medicine residents (and adjusting to the reality that the interns I remembered are now beginning their third and final residency year), and working from my quiet office on campus, which was just as I left it in March 2020.

Somewhat to my surprise, my practice is still seeing more patients virtually than in-person, even though 73% of adults in DC have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose and 63% are fully vaccinated. My sense from my first clinic day back is that some patients continue to prefer telehealth not because they are afraid of COVID-19, but because it's more convenient for them. And though researchers are still studying if and how telehealth affects quality of care, the early results are promising. A study of more than a million U.S. adults with type 2 diabetes published this week in JAMA Internal Medicine found that despite a steep decline in visit frequency and many visits transitioning to telehealth, medication fill rates and blood sugar control were essentially the same during the pandemic as before it began.

Georgetown's medical school and family medicine residency program did all-virtual interviews of prospective students and residents for the first time last year and plan to do so again this year. I have mixed feelings about this. Having interviewed for years, I would much prefer to meet a candidate in person (even socially distanced, wearing masks) than on Zoom, where so much body language is hidden from view. On the other hand, I recognize that traditional interviews are expensive, time-consuming, and disadvantage students with fewer financial resources.

What's it like to be back home after almost a year away? In general, it feels great. Unpacking is always a chore (and there's still much unpacking and rearranging to do), but settling back in to a familiar environment and rediscovering the things, spaces, and people I reluctantly left behind has been a pleasure. I enjoyed most of my time in Utah and appreciated the opportunity to teach and practice family medicine outside of my comfort zone. But it's great to be back.