No longer unsung heroes

By Gary Huffenberger - Staff columnist

Workers in the medical field have become public heroes and heroines in this pandemic. In addition to providing support and guidance for the rest of us, many of them are taking great risks through their interactions with patients.

One of the global heroes is Dr. Li Wenliang of China who tried to warn others early on about the virus, and police told him to stop. Later he himself succumbed to COVID-19.

Along with the practicing doctors and nurses and other allied health-care workers on the front lines, are the public health officials. Via various types of communications media, including the traditional ones TV and radio, these public health professionals have in a way been making house calls to the population as we stay at home to curb the virus’ spread.

I’ve been telling friends, half seriously, that I have developed a crush on Ohio Health Director Dr. Amy Acton. Her clear, steady presentations, and calming voice, have been a model for that role. (There’s a rule against cheering in the press box, but three cheers also for Governor DeWine.)

The global pandemic raises questions on whether medical science and medical research have been accorded the priority they call for. Effective public health involves attention, investment, and foresight.

It may be instructive that the educational emphasis on STEM — Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math — doesn’t specify a second “M”, medicine, which it could.

After COVID-19 subsides, there will be lessons drawn from the health emergency. At this juncture, I will propose just a couple.

I think the president is on-target when he says going forward medical equipment and supplies need to be manufactured in the United States. In other words, the economists’ doctrine of “comparative advantage” does not have to be decisive.

A more general lesson, it seems to me, is there needs to be more investments made toward medical research and public health, given the priorities of health and safety.

On the topic of priorities, government budgets reflect policy and spending priorities. Washington could, for example, forego a return trip to the moon in favor of medical research for Earthlings.

Meanwhile, those who face risk to save others during this health emergency are our flying caped heroes.

Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768.

By Gary Huffenberger

Staff columnist