As a former NASA Senior Medical Advisor, I see the universe of health through the prism of space using a sex/gender lens even during this pandemic. I advised NASA for over 18 years and the following are some of the lessons learned which help to guide me through this time of public health uncertainty and challenge. Read on to see how you might follow my lead, and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You’ve Already Had Coronavirus.
It’s important to keep a schedule including time for exercise and relaxation and meals. I stay busy and focused on daily goals even if it is to pull weeds in my garden. Finally, I stay connected to my networks through calls, email, text, video chats, etc., even if it is just a brief check-in.
I calculate the relative risk of exposure to the virus by how transmissible it is in the community. I calculate the value and importance of performing a particular activity to daily living and explore options—i.e. can it be done virtually such as shopping. On top of that, I assess the countermeasures such as whether I can maintain social distancing and if others will be wearing masks.
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It’s a natural step for me as NASA has been employing telemedicine since the start of the space program using existing technologies. Before you will make a call to your doctor ensure that your privacy is maintained. Become familiar with your health care provider so that there is a frank discussion by engaging in general conversation prior to health discussion.
I assess if PPE—personal protective equipment—such as masks, gloves, eyewear fits properly and comfortably and wear it consistently. Currently, I am working on ensuring that PPE be redesigned to better fit women’s bodies — lessons learned from the space program.
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I study available data and studies in small segments to not become overwhelmed. I know that data is continually evolving and may not be complete. I disaggregate the data by human factors such as age, race/ethnicity, sex/gender, SES to assess how it applies to the individual. I am aware that COVID-19 is a multi-system disease just like adaptation to space. As for yourself: To get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don’t miss these 35 Places You’re Most Likely to Catch COVID.
Saralyn Mark, MD, AMWA Covid Leader is an endocrinologist, geriatrician, and women’s health specialist. Dr. Mark was the first Senior Medical Advisor to the Office on Women’s Health within the Department of Health and Human Services for 11 years and to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).