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From the Heart: COVID-19 Column

By Dr. Louis DeLuke

My name is Louis DeLuke; I am a second-year endodontic resident at the Boston University Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine.

When COVID-19 first hit, I can honestly say that I was clueless about the gravity of the situation. I remember making a comment to a faculty member at school in early March, saying “can you imagine if our clinic closed for a week or two?” They laughed and responded, “don’t get your hopes up, it will never happen!”

It turned out that I would not see another patient for close to five months; nearly 20% of my residency program. Overnight, my clinical experience was limited to treating patients over the phone, calling in prescriptions and making referrals to the emergency room. I hated that I was no longer able to help those who desperately needed it during this time. I struggled with the fact that I was unable to do what I loved most, practice endodontics.

The months that we ultimately lost in clinic due to COVID-19 were a very crucial part of my training at BU. As a rising second-year resident, I would typically see a much higher volume of cases as the graduating class finished. I was stalled just as I began to build my speed and confidence. The uncertainty of the situation, not knowing if I would graduate on schedule, or if I would feel prepared to go out and practice as a specialist, weighed on me constantly. The first couple weeks felt like I was watching my tuition dollars burn right in front of my eyes.

As I witnessed every industry begin to adjust and rise to the circumstances, I knew that I had to change my thought process. I made the decision to re-focus my energy on other aspects of my life and career that I retained control over. For one, I was able to spend more time with my amazing wife, who I rarely see for more than a couple hours each day during the week. I re-connected with family members and friends of mine via zoom, after months of being too busy to reach out. I prioritized my health and well-being by exercising regularly and eating healthier by cooking at home. I also took advantage of CE, online lectures, and studying for oral boards. I knew that when I was given the opportunity to return to school and see patients again, I would be refreshed and ready.

Since returning to the clinic, I am more thankful than ever for every appointment and every patient. I am acutely aware of how valuable every learning experience that comes my way is. My patients are more grateful for the dental care they were unable to obtain for months. I have a newfound appreciation for my career as a healthcare provider.

This pandemic is not over and none of us know what the future will hold. But I do know I have never valued my access to an education more and intend to make the most out of this coming year.

Louis DeLuke, D.D.S., is a member of the AAE’s Resident & New Practitioner Committee.