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Insights and Reflections on COVID-19 from a Surgeon

By Dr. Doreen Wiggins for Yoga Medicine®.

The last few weeks amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, have been a new frontier in the 28 years that I have practiced medicine. As a breast cancer surgeon, I am often the first caregiver a woman meets when facing a new cancer diagnosis. Me leading the charge, expediting a multidisciplinary plan and moving swiftly to treatment has been a way to help curtail anxiety for my patients. The viral pandemic has created an unseen enemy amidst the delivery of patient care. Moving surgeries, delaying standard treatment for less invasive cancer care, so not to compromise the immune function an individual’s health while awaiting the surge of the pandemic. Nationally and locally, new guidelines for treatment have emerged based on the need for systemic preparation to care for ventilated viral patients had lead to closing operating rooms, furloughing some healthcare providers, reassigning others. Paradigm shifts of uncertainty for all of us, well beyond medicine. Each decision I have made with thoughtfulness and compassion, bears weight for uncharted trajectory of patient care.

Bewildering as our circumstance is, my yoga training has taught me to dive within. To cultivate compassion for myself and others as I settle in to the discomfort of this moment. Realizing we are all connected, and that such immobilizing circumstances can be liberated with mindfulness to quell fear and isolation.

There are many things we can do as the Yoga Medicine Community. Our intentions, thoughts and actions, the sum of our choices can help others during this pandemic. In times of great challenge, is an opportunity to stand witness to uncertainty and fear, yet move beyond to inspire elevation. Inspiring elevation is the embodiment of altruism, connection to all, reaching through suffering to uplift, and create change within ourselves and others. Reach out to others, check in on neighbors and loved ones. Stay connected to your community.

Left image credit: Dr. Doreen Wiggins | Right image credit: Dwight S. Williams

Yoga Medicine® is closely monitoring the spread of COVID-19. Please check our COVID-19 Resources Page for informational resources and training updates.

About the Author

Doreen Wiggins

Doreen Wiggins

Doreen L Wiggins, MD, MHL, FACOG, FACS is an Assistant Clinical Professor of Surgery, and Obstetrics and Gynecology at Brown University. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Chemistry and Psychology in 1984 from the University of Rhode Island, medical degree in 1988 from Brown University, and completed her Ob/Gyn residency at the Women and Infant’s Hospital of Brown University. She founded the Center for Obstetrics and Gynecology in 1999 before pursuing further medical training in 2003. Most recently, Dr. Wiggins completed the Executive Masters in Healthcare Leadership at Brown University. In addition to her medical training, Dr. Wiggins completed training as a children's grief counselor at the Dougy Center in Oregon in 2000. She serves as Advisory Board member of Friends Way (a children's-only grief center in Rhode Island) and in the past has been the Vice President of the Board, and volunteered as a facilitator. She was chosen in 2003 to be one of 26 cyclists in the Tour of Hope, a transcontinental bicycling relay with Lance Armstrong to promote cancer research and clinical trials. She has also been invited to meet members of Congress on behalf of the Lance Armstrong Foundation’s cancer research efforts and has received grants for local cancer survivorship outreach programs. She has published book chapters and journal articles, and has received awards for medical teaching at Brown University and her philanthropic work. She has been invited to teach annually at women’s yoga retreats, including at Kripalu with Rajshree Choudhary for her Pregnancy Yoga Series since 2011. She is a mom to five kids and has been practicing yoga for over 30 years.

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