MYMonashAlumni: Frontliner Story 7

I am an aspiring physician in Melbourne with a great passion for public health, digital health, health informatics, innovation, and systems management. During my role as the Diabetes and Reproductive Health Fellow at Monash Health, I cemented my interests in Endocrinology and Women’s Health. 2020 certainly took all of us by surprise.

In joining the pandemic response, I found myself working in one of the COVID-19 wards. The experience as a front-liner is certainly exhilarating yet somewhat distressing. Having the extra bit of medical knowledge in a pandemic for a novel disease does not put healthcare workers at much of an advantage and working within the confines of the COVID-19 ward will not necessarily make me an expert in the field either. In reality, it can be rather daunting (that we know a fair bit yet so little at the same time) especially in the early stages with minimal evidence and also demoralising when the public was not heeding advice for social and physical distancing initially. Australia has managed the pandemic well to date.

Perhaps the most challenging part of managing the COVID-19 ward for me is when dealing with the many uncertainties and unverified social media claims brought up by those within the healthcare and non-healthcare sectors. Another challenging and moving situation for me involved a terminal patient receiving palliative care (suspected COVID-19 pending results) on the ward who passed away before the test results were back. Tests required approximately a 48hr turn around then. The patient spent her last moment on Earth surrounded by healthcare workers in full PPE, instead of her loved ones to minimise the possibility of transmission to the public. There were ethical, moral, and societal dilemmas in this situation too.

1. Were we ‘right’ in isolating the loved ones from the patient’s deathbed? 

2. Without the results, what should a clinician do in terms of moving the (now demised) patient from the ward? 

3. Will the test results be reliable? Could this be a COVID-19 death with a false negative result? 

4. Or the more relevant question, what should I be saying to the family and the advice for funeral services in these unprecedented times? 

I eventually found myself contributing more towards the pandemic response on an international level through Helpful Engineering, a global volunteer-based organisation that develops and manages open-source projects in response to COVID-19; from PPE to ventilator based projects. I trust that the training and opportunities I received through the Monash degree equipped me with the necessary skills to manage uncertainties and challenges at the workplace as well as in life. I strongly believe that Monash University prepares its graduates for the workforce and beyond. My ongoing passion for health and humanity stems from being a proud alumnus who has continued to uphold Monash University’s motto and values.

Ancora Imparo.

*Dr Densearn Seo is also a medical advisor for Drop Bio, a personalised digital health company and a Certified Health Informatician Australasia (CHIA). He is an ongoing Monash University mentor who is in the midst of completing his Master of Public Health (MPH) with  Monash University while exploring his broadcasting skills in his upcoming podcast, myHealthCast – anticipated release in late June/July 2020.

Dr Densearn Seo (Clinician | Health Informatics | Public Health)
Bachelor of Medicine/Bachelor of Surgery ( Class of 2011)