Viewers of the first edition of Tech Table Talk, a new digital community-based series from Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso, heard firsthand accounts and personal stories of the fight against COVID-19 from local front-line health care heroes on Dec. 7.
Host Richard Lange, M.D., M.B.A., president of TTUHSC El Paso and dean of the Foster School of Medicine, updated the public on TTUHSC El Paso’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. He also welcomed three panelists who shared their stories and discussed challenges they’ve experienced while caring for patients with COVID-19.
Panelists included Patrick Popieluszko, M.D., chief resident in the TTUHSC El Paso Department of Emergency Medicine; Chelsea Holder, a student from the Hunt School of Nursing Class of 2020; and Juan Aragon, a student from the Foster School of Medicine Class of 2021.
The panelists shared their struggles to finish medical training amid the pandemic and discussed challenging experiences that have prepared them to serve patients. They also shared measures the public can take to remain safe.
“During clinical work, I see patients all the time, and unfortunately that’s the only opportunity I have to educate patients on how to reduce the risk and remain healthy for themselves and loves ones. I want to get ahead of that. I love seeing people, but not in the emergency room, because that means they’re pretty sick,” Dr. Popieluszko said. “So if I can share my experiences in a forum such as the Tech Table Talk and reach people, that’s a method of preventative medicine.
Popieluszko added that discussions like the Tech Talk are good for stressing basics, which are simple, easy to follow and understand. It can help clear up misinformation and better arm our community with ways to fight the pandemic and turn around the crisis in our community.
Aragon and Holder discussed challenges that come with continuing to learn despite the difficult circumstances COVID-19 has presented.
“We’re learning how to be nurses online during a pandemic, and not many people can say that. I think because of the pandemic, we’re going to be better nurses and better people, and for that I’m grateful,” Holder said. “We never stopped going to clinicals thanks to the Hunt School of Nursing faculty, who ensured we had the opportunity to serve our community where we are needed the most and stay on track to graduate on time.”
During the discussion, the learners revealed personal stories and anecdotes, such as the first thing they want to do following the pandemic and what gives them hope during this worldwide public health emergency. All three panelists said they can’t wait to visit family and friends again following the pandemic. They also described the lengths they go to protect their families while caring for COVID-19 patients in the hospital.
“I do have to make some concessions or sacrifices,” Aragon said. “My fiancée and daughter live in Lubbock, and I live in El Paso, so during my clinical rotations I haven’t gone home for about a month and a half, to make sure I don’t put them in harm’s way.”
A recording of the first Tech Table Talk can be viewed on the TTUHSC El Paso Facebook page. Tech Table Talks are designed for residents from the Paso del Norte and West Texas region to hear from front-line health care professionals and bring critical conversations to the table in order to improve the health of our community via Facebook Live. The next Tech Table Talk will be on Dec. 21.