Care on the Frontlines: An Alumna's Expertise with COVID-19

On January 21, the Center for Disease Control announced that the first novel coronavirus (COVID-19) case in the U.S. was in Washington state. Since then, the state has identified quarantine locations,

Naomi Diggs profile picture wearing her doctor's coat in her office with a bookshelf in the backgroundOn January 21, the Center for Disease Control announced that the first novel coronavirus (COVID-19) case in the U.S. was in Washington state. Since then, the state has identified quarantine locations, closed public schools and businesses, waived testing costs and most recently issued a Stay Home, Stay Healthy order that requires residents to stay home unless they need to pursue an essential activity. These efforts have been put in place to help flatten the curve of the virus and slow the rate of infection, and to give our hospitals and healthcare workers a fighting chance. 

Naomi Diggs, MD, ’04, '20 is a physician and leader at Swedish Medical Center in Seattle where she is part of the coordinated COVID-19 response team. She and other Swedish leaders have been working around the clock to ensure adequate PPE supplies, access to testing, and ability to manage a surge of patients. Dr. Diggs leads a large team of physicians who care for acutely ill patients across all five Swedish hospitals in the Puget Sound. Diggs is accustomed to hectic days leading her team during the pandemic.  In addition to caring for patients, her work includes ensuring accurate communication across the organization between her colleagues in the ICU (Intensive Care Unit) and emergency department.   

“We are cautiously optimistic that social distancing is working. So far, Seattle is not like New York where the healthcare system is at risk of being completely overwhelmed. We are constantly working on obtaining resources and improving our operations to prepare,” said Diggs. While pandemic training isn’t explicitly a part of medical school, Diggs said that as a physician, she and her colleagues have been training their entire careers for this kind of crisis. “The physicians on my team have been on the frontlines of many different epidemics from SARS to H1N1 and even HIV-AIDS. While the scale of coronavirus is unprecedented, taking care of sick people is what we are trained to do.” 

As a Leadership Executive MBA student and recent graduate of the  at Seattle University, Diggs has developed greater insight into her motivation for showing up and leading. Healthcare workers do not have the luxury of holing up in their homes to shield themselves from coronavirus. Countless Swedish caregivers get up each day and make the choice to leave the safety of their homes and head to work. Diggs said “When people go into healthcare, they know they’re not making widgets. We are living our mission each day. We’re getting a lot of attention now, but this is what heath care is every day. We take care of the sick and ill.” 

Diggs continued, “Honestly, it’s quite inspiring to be in healthcare now.” New information is being gathered locally and around the world to help hospitals treat patients and better understand this disease.  Diggs noted, “I am proud of us as a discipline. Not only are we taking care of patients, but we are also handling the data and science at the same time. We have trials going on that are literally affecting how we handle patients and protocols in real time.” 

Diggs continues to do her part and when asked how Seattle U alumni can help, she advised, “Continue social distancing, get your information from accurate and reputable sources and take care of your neighbors, friends and families.  The only way we will get through this is if everyone does their part.” 

If you think you have been exposed to COVID-19, check out the CDC Symptom & Testing website for a coronavirus self-checker, call your doctor’s office or schedule a virtual visit through Swedish Medical Center. 

The Seattle University Alumni Association

April 2, 2020