WRA School Physician Dr. Hegde weighs in on the school's COVID-19 response
Posted 04/01/2020 10:00AM

During Dr. Vishvas Hegde's first year in the position of WRA's School Physician, he faced both the expected and unexpected. He adjusted well to the fast-paced rhythm of Health Services, which sees its regular visits from students suffering from illness, healing from a physical injury and/or seeking comfort and care from the friendly staff. But his first year saw the sudden and unprecedented spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19), pushing him and the school leaders to take quick and decisive action as WRA developed a fast and confident plan in response to the global pandemic.

We sat down with Dr. Hegde to find out more about both his first year and his role in the school's COVID-19 response plan.

Q: How was working as the School Physician different from what you were used to?

A: While my practice includes patients ages birth to 21, this was certainly my first time having 400 adolescent patients. It took time to review everything about them, understand all their medical histories, their medications and more. But that's what you have to do.

Q: What are your impressions of the school so far?

A: I have to say I'm very, very impressed with how well our Health Services is put together. The entire staff is very well experienced. Many of them are all parents themselves, so they all have a great perspective. I really think the Health Center is one of the great strengths of the school.

Q: Has anything surprised you?

A: As with most populations of teenage students, there is a lot of stress. I'm very glad to see that the school is so focused on providing these social and emotional support services to the students. The counseling staff is exceptional and always accessible

Q: What is the mission of the Health Services department?

A: I would say it's to advance the well being, academic success and lifelong achievement of every student. I think they've done a fabulous job in working toward this. Everyone here is so friendly, experienced and caring. They truly treat every student as their own. Even if a student comes in with something minor, like a cut on their finger, they know they'll be taken care of and a staff member will treat them, ask them how their day was, what sport are they playing this season -- it's not a get-in-get-out model. The level of care is very evident, and it's why I find it such a great place to work.

Q: How does a school like Reserve prepare itself for a pandemic like COVID-19?

A: WRA has always had a pandemic plan in place so we were already ahead of the game. In the recent months we have revisited the plan and made some modifications. In this plan were details such as education, prevention, early mitigation, surveillance, testing, reporting, quarantine/isolation and potential school closure.

Q: In early March, WRA announced that online learning will take place for the remainder of the school year and subsequently cancelled in-person, on-campus classes. Why was this the right decision?

A: I have been personally involved in this decision making (both to have two weeks of online learning after spring break and then to move to online learning for the rest of the school year). While it was a tough decision, in the end it really was the only choice we had during this time. Nobody that works at WRA was happy to make this call, but we had to be concerned for the safety of our students, faculty and staff. Especially since we have children from over 20 countries here, the logistics of getting them back here and clearing them medically would have been an almost impossible task to conduct before the end of the school year.

Even before spring break started, the administration, deans and the health services department made sure to reach out to all boarding/international students and families to discuss each individual situation, and we tried to convince them that there was a good chance of longer term distance learning than mid-April.

Q: Can you give me a sense of what these past weeks/months have been like for you and your team?

A: This has been quite a stressful last few months for anyone in the healthcare field. Students, faculty, staff and our nurses have all had increased anxiety due to the uncertainty of the current medical crisis. Right now we have no treatment, no vaccine and no definitive timeline on when this will all get better. I have personally answered numerous emails, texts and phone calls about Coronavirus, and it definitely has been physically, mentally and emotionally draining. However, I consider it to be just a part of my job, and I'm doing the best to maintain availability during this time of need.

Dr. Hegde was also recently featured in the Akron Beacon Journal, citing ways for area doctors to keep their offices and homes safe from the Coronavirus. Read the full article.