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Celebrating Doctors’ Day

Challenges and Rewards: One Physician Reflects on the Past Year

By Mary Beth TeSelle, Special to The Union
Dr. Tom Luisetti, shown at work at Dignity Health Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital and on vacation with his wife and children, describes being a doctor as a massive privilege, even given the enormous challenges of the past year.

National Doctors’ Day is observed every year on March 30 — a date chosen because it was the anniversary of the first use of general anesthesia. On that date in 1842, Dr. Crawford Long in Jefferson, Georgia used ether to anesthetize a patient and painlessly remove a tumor from his neck.

While much has changed in the world of medicine since that day nearly 180 years ago, much has stayed the same. Doctors today feel called to give of themselves to their patients and their communities, just as they did in the 1800s. But perhaps at no time was that calling as demanding as it has been in the past year.

Dr. Tom Luisetti

Tom Luisetti, MD, Chief of Staff Elect at Dignity Health Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital, recognizes the effort physicians have put into providing care during the past year, having been on the front lines as an anesthesiologist at SNMH.



“Reflecting back on this difficult year I want the community to know how diligently doctors in our community worked to provide safe health care to our patients,” Dr. Luisetti says. “It was a challenge to care for people with COVID-19 while also continuing to provide needed medical care to patients who we normally care for.”

Dr. Luisetti says the challenges brought on by COVID-19 began from the very first days of the pandemic.



“When the first cases of COVID presented, we did not have any tests and no one knew much about the disease process or how to treat it,” he says. “We were uncertain how to adequately protect health care providers and keep other patients from getting COVID. It was even uncertain if there was enough protective equipment to adequately protect health care workers.”

The pandemic also forced physicians to collaborate in new and different ways, as providers around the world focused on treating this one new and mysterious illness.

“I think the biggest challenge has been the lesson in humility COVID presented,” Dr. Luisetti says. “Physicians spend lots of time in training, learning about physiology, diseases, and procedures. When I finished my residency training, I felt more than adequately trained to begin practicing medicine on my own. COVID challenged all of that.”

Through collaboration with colleagues both near and far, that challenge was overcome. Specifically, Dr. Luisetti points to the vital relationships between SNMH, its sister hospitals throughout Dignity Health, and Vituity Anesthesia – the medical group that provides anesthesia services to SNMH, of which Dr. Luisetti serves as Medical Director.

“Having the ability to utilize the resources at Dignity and Vituity was invaluable,” he explains. “At the beginning of the pandemic, I would attend meetings at the hospital where the best practices among the six Sacramento area Dignity Health hospitals would be presented, and then later that day I was able to have a video conference call where I would hear about the best anesthesia practices among the seven Vituity-serviced hospitals. It really accelerated the learning curve and allowed our patients to receive the best possible care.”

Dr. Luisetti points to professional relationships as a high point of the past year.

“The most rewarding aspect of the pandemic was having the honor to work with such amazing people at Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital,” he says. “The employees and medical staff have demonstrated inspiring valor during this ordeal. This was displayed by doctors, nurses, administrators, technicians, and all of the support staff. I was able to gain courage and strength by seeing people putting their fear aside on a regular basis to provide care for patients. It was nothing short of selfless. I have never been so proud to be a part of this medical community. I think the adversity has made everyone a little closer at the hospital.”

On this Doctors’ Day, as the community expresses its appreciation for Dr. Luisetti and his colleagues, Dr. Luisetti actually extends his gratitude to the community.

“I want the community to know how appreciative the medical staff and employees are for all the support we received during the pandemic,” he says. “We were fortunate to have hand sanitizer donated to us and face shields fabricated locally for our use. It was comforting to have a community you were trying to care for returning the favor.”

And while the past year has not been easy, Dr. Luisetti feels the same calling to care for his patients as we imagine Dr. Long did back in 1842.

“Every profession has its pros and cons, but I think being a doctor is a massive privilege,” Dr. Luisetti says. “As an anesthesiologist, the vast majority of my patients are very grateful for their medical care. A thank you is very heartfelt. There are few professions where your sole purpose is to just try to make things better and you receive the praise of so many on a daily basis.”

Today, on Doctors’ Day 2021, we praise Dr. Luisetti and all the doctors who selflessly provide care to our community. Thank you.

 


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