Central Austin Edition - June 2020


“It’s the responsibility that I’ve been looking for,” said Dr. Anatoli Berezovsky, a Dell Medical School graduate who began working as a family medicine resident in Fort Worth in June. In Austin, the connections between the coronavi- rus and issues such as food insecurity, transportation access and systemic racism—challenges the students at Dell Medical School have been studying as part of the school’s holistic approach to medicine—have amplied existing divides in the city. According to 2014-18 ve-year estimates from the U.S. Census American Communities Survey, the city's population is roughly half residents who identify as white-only and one-third Hispanic or Latino residents. However, according to Austin Pub- lic Health data, Hispanic or Latino individuals have accounted for more than 57% of coronavirus hospi- talizations every week fromApril 26 to June 14, while white residents have accounted for less than 30% of hospitalizations. “This has revealed just how fragile health is for cer- tain segments of our population.We knew it; wewere anticipating it; we were watching for it. We couldn’t

that students sign up for—working toward equitable health care. Her work has not changed in the last three months, but as she has watched companies deliver statements on the pandemic and protests against police violence, she said the importance of strong leadership is clear. “Lots of organizations have made their statements about standing against racism and inequities. What I say is actions speak louder than words,” Mullen said. On June 10, in the midst of a spike in local corona- virus cases, Dr. Mark Escott, Austin-Travis County interim Health Authority, delivered a similar call to action. “We have towork harder as a community to address these inequities. We simply have not done enough, and quite frankly I think it’s inexcusable as a country that in 2020, we don’t have access to care for all mem- bers of our community,” Escott said. Since mid-April, CommUnityCare, the clinical arm of county health provider Central Health, has been testing individuals for free at locations throughout Travis County. Data from the tests CommUnityCare has provided shows lines in the community drawn around geog- raphy and ethnicity. Clients served in Spanish had a 30% positive test rate through June 14, according to CommUnityCare, while those served in English tested positive at a rate of 9%. Mike Geeslin, president and CEO of Central Health, said it is dicult for many Austin residents to isolate

safely and protect themselves from the coronavirus. That could be true if those individuals have jobs that do not allow them to stay home, or in their family life, if they have a number of family members living in the same household. “The COVID pandemic has revealed inadequacies and discriminations that have long existed, continue to exist and have been ignored for decades,” Geeslin said. Dr. Kim Kjome has seen the same divide in Austin when it comes to mental health. Kjome is an assistant professor of psychiatry at Dell Medical School and the medical director at Seton Shoal Creek Hospital, where she still sees patients one on one. Kjome said she has seen a huge increased need for mental health care since the pandemic began, but at the same time many patients’ access to care has been cut o because of increasing unemployment and loss of benets. “It’s very hard to live in Austin if you don’t have money, and if you lose your job, you can become very challenged,” Kjome said. Measure Austin, a local advocacy organization aimed at eliminating social disparities, released results of a survey June 1 that highlighted specic issues related to the coronavirus in Austin. The survey showed 32% of non-white respondents reported having trouble with food assistance, com- pared to 11% of white respondents. There was also a gap in questions related to housing—59% of white

prevent it,” Johnston said. Acrisis for thosemost at risk

In September, Dell Medical School brought in Dr. Jewel Mullen to serve as its health equity dean. Mullen’s role, as she describes it, is to ensure that Dell Medical School’s leadership reects the mission



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