A First-hand experience in the time of Covid-19 in the Philippines
Evangeline B. Handog, MD, FPDS, FAAD
First Woman President of the International Society of Dermatology
WCD 2023 AMBASSADOR FROM PHILIPPINES, ASIA
The magnitude of this Covid-19 pandemic is preposterous! It took me sometime to realize that our world could literally come to a halt, turn our schedules upside down, change our lifestyle and routines drastically and come to one’s senses that everyone, yes, all of humanity will be affected. Our immediate plans, our foresight, even our dreams will have to wait.
The difficulty of the times – the pandemic is real…but living optimistic creatures that we are, resiliency and patience are the order of the day! Waking up to the scenario that we are in, helping people with dermatological concerns kept nagging me. What can we do during long months of lockdown? The government kept reminding everyone to be safe and to stay home!
Firstly, we have a residency training program to continue. As consultants of the Dermatology Department of the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine, we ensured that knowledge via grand rounds, case conferences, didactics and even quizzes be given importance and regularity. Outpatient face to face consultations were replaced by teledermatology. And as we, doctor and patient, got accustomed to this method, trust and rapport recovered, increasing back the number of consults. Phototherapy sessions for needy patients have resumed just recently. However, elective dermatological procedures are still deferred.
Continuing medical education seminars provided by the Philippine Dermatological Society, post-graduate conferences, scientific webinars, and small round table discussions are the orders of the day. Reaching up to four or five weekly, what may appear as information overload were actually diverting our attention and easing our anxieties towards the pandemic.
Secondly, on the global perspective, the mentorship committee of the International Society of Dermatology (ISD) went virtual. The fellowship program continues to provide opportunities to ISD members to enhance dermatological knowledge and skills. Many of the accepted mentees for the 2019-2020 agreed to virtual meetings with volunteer mentors. As of this writing, I have a Mexican, a Georgian, and a Russian under this virtual ISD mentorship program. Miles apart, technology brings us together. It may take much time to prepare powerpoint lectures for these activities but it gives me great pleasure and satisfaction to see the enthusiasm on the faces of these young dermatologists.
Finally, one outstanding event that we can look forward to is the World Congress of Dermatology 2023, which hopefully is a face-to-face affair, in the highly-spirited Singapore! I am certain that the scientific program will not only be comprehensive but perfect and suitable to the times we are in. We are very supportive! Time to see each other!