Northern California health care leaders reveal challenges, local heroes of the coronavirus pandemic
The pandemic year of 2020 challenged the industry like no other. Things changed, some likely in a permanent way.
The Journal asked some leaders to recall those shifts and who rose to the occasion within their organizations. Answers were edited for clarity and brevity.
Richard Carvolth, M.D.
Regional Chief Medical Officer, Northern California
Providence (formerly St. Joseph Health)
1111 Sonoma Ave., Santa Rosa 95405
Before joining St. Joseph Health, Dr. Carvolth was the chief physician executive for Dignity Health, Sacramento Division. Previously, he held leadership roles at several respected health care organizations, including chief medical officer for St. Joseph Health in Sonoma County; senior medical director for Stanford University Healthcare Association; CEO for TeamHealth West; medical director Marin County EMS Agency; facility medical director at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital; and cofounder and COO MedStream Telecommunications.
Dr. Carvolth holds a master’s degree in medical management from the Heinz School of Business at Carnegie Mellon University, trained in general surgery at the University of California San Francisco, and earned his Doctor of Medicine degree at Cornell University. He is a Diplomat of the American Board of Emergency Medicine and a Fellow of the American College of Emergency Physicians.
What memories stand out most as you recall the impact of the coronavirus on your institution?
What stands out most to me is the heroism demonstrated by so many so often. Coming on the heels of three years of devastating wildfires, our caregivers, like all members of our communities, have faced challenges day in and day out, at work, at home, at school, and around town.
Despite these extraordinary demands, our caregivers never let our hospitals, clinics, and other services down. Often, caregivers had to make difficult choices to fill schedules and to ensure that patient care always came first. Many sacrifices were made.
And, especially in the early days of the disease, we all dealt with uncertainty and fear. Despite this, and perhaps in part because of it, so many people stepped up, locked arms, and provided support to so many others in need. It is a truism that healthcare folks are devoted to others, but I am especially proud of the caring, devotion, self-sacrifice, and leadership I saw day in and day out in our organization.
Now, describe two things you see as the pandemic’s lasting impact on health care, and why.
There will be many lasting impacts, positive and negative. I think the two most positive impacts we will see are, on one hand, a willingness to more rapidly adopt technologies, such as telemedicine and safe genetic engineering, and, on the other a recognition of a need to return to basics like sanitation and hygiene as well as concern for the public good in the form of public health measures and social support resources and structures. The negative impacts we must work to correct include distrust of science, ineffective government, and inequities in health care access.