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Indian American Physicians from UNLV School of Medicine at the Forefront of COVID-19 Pandemic

In the continuing menace of COVID-19, the Indian-American Physicians – Dr. Kush Modi, Dr. Aditi Singh,  Dr. Buddha Dawn, Dr. Amaan Shafi, Dr. Pallavi Satuluri and Dr. Ketan Patel, from the UNLV School of Medicine are vigorously providing medical care to the Las Vegas community. 

Dr. Kush Modi

Dr. Kush Modi…Well before the COVID-19 outbreak, Dr. Kush Modi was taking care of critically ill patients with a variety of lung diseases in the University Medical Center (UMC) intensive care units. His experience as a resident in internal medicine, coupled with a long-standing wonder at the complexity and perfection of the respiratory system, spurred him to specialize in pulmonary and critical care medicine. Today, of course, he is doing all he can at UMC to save the lives of people stricken with the novel coronavirus. His first COVID-19 patient did require ventilator support to sustain her breathing, but she is now slowly recovering and he is hopeful she will make a full recovery. After a 14-hour day recently, Dr. Modi agreed to an interview.

Describe the symptoms of COVID-19 patients, how caring for them is different from caring for other patients with lung problems, how long they’re hospitalized.  

The most common symptoms for patients with COVID-19 infection are fever, fatigue, and dry cough. Most individuals who contract COVID-19 are not ill enough to require hospitalization. However, a small proportion of patients are developing pneumonia with shortness of breath which, if progressive, leads to low oxygen levels in the blood and this potentially requires a patient to be placed on ventilator support. It appears that people with advanced age and other comorbidities (like diabetes and heart disease) are at higher risk for developing a more severe form of the disease. In our experience, we have observed that patients frequently progress rapidly to a severe form and it has been challenging to differentiate these patients from other patients who recover and do well. Continue reading…

Dr. Aditi Singh

Dr. Aditi Singh…Led by Program Director Dr. Aditi Singh, UNLV Internal Medicine residents are among the front line healthcare workers providing outstanding care during this pandemic. Singh, who is also on UMC’s COVID-19 Task Force, is proud of how the residents have performed since the pandemic hit Nevada. “Our residents’ resilience and dedication to patient care is inspiring — our leadership team is so proud of all of our residents,” she said. 

Dr. Buddha Dawn

So is Dr. Buddha Dawn, Chair of the UNLV School of Medicine Department of Internal Medicine. “The dedication of our residents has been unwavering,” he said. “They’ve exhibited the highest levels of care as well as sheer courage throughout this challenging time.” 

Singh noted the residents have never forgotten that the loved ones of patients cannot visit during the pandemic. 

“Our residents call the families of patients each day to let them know how their loved ones are doing,” she said. “They understand just how important it is for families. You can imagine just how emotional families get, how thankful they are for news about someone they love.” World-class care with a heart, that’s what our residents provide.

Singh stressed that residents seeing patients for issues other than coronavirus must strategize patient rounds. “They want to ensure they are not exposing other patients, and minimize having to change back and forth out of their personal protection equipment (PPE),” she said. “It brings a different element to patient care that residents have become very thoughtful about.” 

Residents, Singh said, are also supporting the infectious disease service, reviewing remotely the records of patients who may have tested negative for the virus, yet continue to show symptoms. “Some of the patients are tested again if suspicion for COVID is high,” she said. “We don’t want patients removed from isolation inappropriately as this could expose more people.” 

Dr. Amaan Shafi

Dr. Amaan Shafi…The son of a Las Vegas gastroenterologist, Shafi said he is blessed to be in a position to help people with the coronavirus. He said it’s extremely important to remain calm in phone calls to families worried about their loved ones. “It is so easy to get emotionally involved and then people won’t get the important information they need,” he said. “Sometimes I’m on the phone with an interpreter because the patient is Spanish-speaking and I always worry that the essence of what I’m saying could get lost.”

Dr. Pallavi Satuluri

Dr. Pallavi Satuluri…On the ICU rotation with a young child at home, she was, according to Dr. Singh, among the physicians who realized there would be a great need for interpreters for the loved ones of Spanish-speaking patients with COVID-19. “I can understand the fear of families,” Satuluri says. “We call every day and those who can’t understand English need to know what’s going on…There’s so much fear and we need to do all we can to calm them.” It’s difficult for Satuluri’s tiny daughter to stay calm when mom gets home. “No matter how much she cries when I get home, I make sure not to touch her, to disinfect before I hold her.”

Dr. Ketan Patel

Dr. Ketan Patel…an assistant professor in the UNLV School of Medicine Department of Emergency Medicine, as well as associate director of the emergency medicine residency, lives with his pregnant wife, their young son, his brother, and his 71-year-old father and 69-year-old mother. “The concern for me was never coming down with the virus, but keeping it away from them. At the onset of the outbreak locally, I got sick with a fever and body aches and was placed on quarantine and pulled off shifts. I had such an immense fear of my family contracting the disease and it was a true worry for me. I had isolated myself in our guest room, but it was tough to completely isolate myself from my entire family. The other members of my household have also been sick but fortunately have recovered…I recently tested positive for antibodies to the virus. I pray daily that they are all immune as am I, as this risk to myself and my loved ones, will not end in days, weeks, months, or even years. I’ve realized that due to the nature of my profession, I am always at risk, and by proxy, they are as well.”

The above information is compiled from the weekly reports by the UNLV School of Medicine.

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