With both a movie and a documentary in recent years about television personality Fred Rogers and his neighborhood, nearly everyone knows the advice he was given by his mother. “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”
What struck me during the COVID-19 crisis was how often those helpers wore military uniforms or VA badges. They have been everywhere. The VA quickly opened its facilities to everyone, not just veterans, as part of its Fourth Mission during the coronavirus outbreak. National Guard members were everywhere — shoring up testing sites, cleaning nursing homes, staffing quarantine centers.
And, who else caught their breath and felt a surge of relief when the USNS Comfort sailed into New York harbor?
In light of that, the 2020 Compendium of Federal Medicine includes several articles about the novel coronavirus, including how it affected care for those with substance abuse disorders and those diagnosed with serious mental illness.
Another COVID-19 related article describes how the Uniformed Service University of Health Sciences came to the rescue of non-intensivists struggling to care for critically ill patients by producing a series of engaging educational videos. In addition, overview of the history TRICARE pharmacy service takes on new importance at a time it has had to make changes to assure beneficiaries receive necessary medications despite shelter-in-place orders and infection risks.
Most of the articles, however, deal with the issues clinician face outside of this crisis. Not surprisingly, three of them deal with aspects of diabetes, which affects nearly a quarter of VA patients. Readers will learn about medications to protect against cardiovascular disease, assuring safe use of insulin in hospitals and how they can deployed servicemembers with diabetes keep track of their blood glucose levels.
Other articles concern complex issues such as the best treatment options when patients have both asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; how to help multiple sclerosis patients increase their medication adherence and finding good alternatives to treating post-surgical pains other than opioids.
And, sadly, just because there is a pandemic, the need for cancer treatment doesn’t go away. Articles this year deal with hepatocellular carcinoma and mantle cell lymphoma, both of which occur disproportionately in older veterans.
Stay safe and remember: Always look for the helpers.