Understanding the New York Medical Conduct Program

Doctor Using a Laptop

You feel that your doctor mistreated you or worse, botched an operation. What do you do?

The medical profession has a code of conduct for healthcare members to abide by. This is crucial to relieve suffering and promote the well-being of patients regardless of the race, religion, ethnicity or class they belong to. It is also important to ensure that the clinical team is equipped with honest and dedicated professionals. 

To maintain and optimize a physician’s discipline in NY, there’s the New York Medical Conduct Program. 

What is the New York Medical Conduct Program? 

Each year, hundreds and thousands of complaints are lodged against physicians in New York. While just about every NY licensed physician is honorable and dedicated to treating patients and saving lives,  accidents do happen, sometimes negligently and sometimes just due to the misfortune of something happening beyond their control. 

The State Board for Professional Medical Conduct, New York and the Health Department’s Office of Professional Medical Conduct (OPMC) aim to investigate and adjust complaints filed against the physicians, assistants or other medical staff associated with the particular complaint. Each year the OPMC and the state board tackle these complaints and school the clinical staff members against which the complaints are lodged. 

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The committee consists of two-thirds of experienced physicians and one-third of lay members, which could also be physician assistants. Who decides which physicians will be on the board? Well, the physicians are appointed by the state, county and specialty medical societies in the USA. 

On the other hand, the lay members are nominated by the commissioner of health and the governor of the state. The committee members are chosen through strict surveillance to ensure they are fair, professional and well-suited for the job. 

Who Can File Complaints About NY Professional Misconduct?

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The majority of the complaints against medical staff come from the public, including patients, colleagues and sometimes family members. Basically, anyone with a solid objection against a healthcare professional can lodge a complaint. 

All licensed health specialists are required to report coworkers whom they may suspect of misconduct. If a professional physician, physician assistant, special assistant or anyone on the clinical staff sees that their colleague’s actions are susceptible, they should contact OMPC immediately. In case the colleague is affiliated with another hospital, but you’re aware of his/her misconduct, you can report to the county medical society of the state you are in, which will report to OPMC. 

Please note that all calls and complaints are confidential, so you don’t need to worry about your identity getting revealed. In case you’re not sure if your colleague’s questionable actions constitute wrongdoing, you can contact OPMC and get their advice on it without revealing the practitioner’s identity.  

What Needs to be Reported?

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Many times, OPMC fails to take any legal action due to a lack of sufficient evidence for a charge of misconduct against a professional physician. However, this should not stop you from taking the right action, i.e., file a complaint against the wrongdoer. 

Physicians should be charged with misconduct if they admit they failed to provide adequate medical assistance to their patient or they did not properly monitor their condition or treatment. Physicians should also be reported in the following circumstances:

  • They exploited a patient for sexual favors
  • Conducted inappropriate moral behavior
  • Being careless with a patient’s treatment
  • Practicing under the influence of drug or alcohol
  • Being impaired by physical or mentally
  • Being biased or unfair due to a patient’s cultural, ethnical, or religious background
  • Practicing on a suspended license
  • Failing to fulfill a patient’s request concerning medical assistance
  • Revealing a patient’s personal data or medical history without the patient’s consent
  • Ordering a patient for unnecessary tests or treatments
  • Allowing unlicensed professionals to perform professional services
  • Failing to maintain an accurate medical record of the patient

What Happens After a Complaint is Lodged? 

Once a complaint is lodged against a medical professional, OPMC reviews it and investigates the medical staff. Many times, the complaints come up due to miscommunication or misunderstanding and thus do not constitute misconduct. 

Misconduct issues are handed over to investigators that interview the complainants and those against whom the complaints have been raised. Interviews are usually carried out through email, phone or one-to-one chat. 

If the board members find a certain physician guilty, they are authorized to take action against the professional. For example, they can suspend the physician’s license for a certain period of time until the offender completes training education or rehabilitation. The board may also exempt the physician from performing a certain type of practice or limit their practice to a specific region. The punishment is usually decided based on the nature of the offense conducted by the malefactor. 

EndNote

The Office of Professional Medical Conduct aims to take disciplinary and other actions against physicians, physician assistants and special assistants. The purpose is solely to ensure all the practitioners follow the code of conduct and provide top-class medical assistance to all patients in New York. 

If you know a colleague who has been involved in the above-stated misconduct or if you have personally experienced a doctor misbehaving with you or mishandling your case, you should follow up with the Office of Professional Medical Conduct (email: opmc@health.ny.gov) so that the issue is not repeated with other patients. 

What Scientists Have Learned About the Novel Coronavirus So Far

Scientist Holding Petri Dish
Scientist Holding Petri Dish
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The impact of the new strain of coronavirus has unleashed unprecedented medical research across the world to find a cure for this virus. It has resulted in the loss of lives of over 582,000 and still counting.

There is no one on this planet that would deny that it is imperative as ever to determine a vaccine. Here are some things that scientists have learned about COVID-19 so far. 

Person to Person Transmission 

At first, Chinese officials claimed that the new strain of does not transmit easily from person to person. We now know that it can be passed down from person to person even before any symptoms show up. This means that asymptomatic people who never display symptoms can pass the disease onto others.

The most direct way for person to person transmission is by getting any droplets from the mouth or other areas of one’s body, but the virus is known to remain on hard surfaces for hours or even days as well. Hence, people can transmit it through breathing or talking, even before they face any symptoms. That is why it is highly recommended to wash your hands frequently and to wear a mask.

At first, it was thought that coronavirus infects the lungs, so it was perceived that coughs or invasive medical procedures could spread it. However, we have learned that it affects the lung cells as well as the senses. 

Signs/Symptoms

Scientists have confirmed a wide range of symptoms including:

  • Fever 
  • Cough 
  • Shortness of breath 
  • Body aches
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue 
  • Loss of taste and smell 

High-Risk Categories 

Only older people were believed to be at high risk, but there are also other factors. Obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, immune-compromised people and even racial disparities can increase the risk of fatality amongst patients. 

Low-Risk Categories 

It was believed that children would not get the virus, but the low risk does not mean no risk at all. Children can still develop inflammatory conditions that and can be quite dangerous, even though the percentage of infections among children is small. 

Rate of Transmission Per Person 

It has been confirmed that a single person can infect hundreds of people. This is why contact tracing and social distancing are so important. A single large gathering can lead to a huge cluster of infections that can stem from just one person too. For example, in South Korea, patient 31 has been traced back to turning the outbreak into a full-blown epidemic in just a week.  

Death Rate 

Death rates have been found to be different depending on the testing requirements set by the country. It will not be easy to pinpoint the exact death rate since it can vary from region to region. Scientists have learned that the infection fatality rate (including those people who have not been tested since they may not have had any symptoms) can be around 0.6%. 

Wearing Masks

Data shows that wearing masks is really important and can stop the spread of the virus by a great deal. What scientists have learned about coronavirus shows that wearing masks can hinder the ability of the virus to spread from an infected person and to a lesser extent, prevent a non-infected person from retaining the virus. They are the best source of protection, especially if everyone wears them. 

Treatment Plans 

Many scientists have rushed to test various drugs on the virus. Some have shown to be quite promising, while others decidedly have not. Malaria drugs such as chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine show no benefits, while Remdesivir and Dexamethasone can help on some levels. There are currently 150 vaccines under development, with 20 currently in human clinical trials. 

FAQs

You may still have some questions about the virus that scientists have explored in detail. Here are the answers to some of the most common questions that people ask. 

Where Did COVID Come From And How Did It Infect Humans? 

The Sars-CoV-2 strain has been confirmed to have originated from bats. It was not produced in a lab. The virus developed because bats’ immune systems are stronger than humans, which causes the virus to replicate faster to get past the defenses. 

It moved onto other hosts that don’t have such a fast immune system, causing it to spread quickly through mammals. 

Are You Protected for Life if You Get It Once? 

Doctors have found that many people develop neutralizing antibodies in the blood. These antibodies are created by our immune systems that coat the virus, impeding its ability to break the cells. However, there have been cases where humans have gotten the virus again after recovering from it the first time. There is no surety that you will be protected for life. 

When Will the Vaccines Arrive? 

There are currently 150 vaccines being developed with many under human clinical trials. However, the larger consensus remains that it may take up to mid-2021 for a vaccine to become widely available. 

Does Warm Weather Stop Coronavirus?

Warm weather or exposure to high temperatures does not stop the virus from persisting. 

Conclusion 

The scientific community is still working steadily on the coronavirus. What scientists have learned about coronavirus already shows that a lot of work continues to be done. The best part about science is that it keeps evolving as new evidence presents itself, as is seen through the amendments in the knowledge that has been made already. With consistent work, it will hopefully be possible to finally extinguish the virus once and for all.  

New Drug Candidates and Treatment Options for COVID-19

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Ever since COVID-19 hit, a lot has changed. From knowing nothing to cracking the virus structure to coming up with potential treatment options, it won’t be wrong to say that we’re in a much better place as compared to where we were on day one of the pandemic. 

When COVID-19 first hit, the virus was completely foreign to the scientists, researchers and doctors. Nobody knew what it was like or what could stop it. But then, a team of researchers in China was finally able to decode the virus structure and were able to figure out the enzyme arrangement of the virus. This was a starting point for scientists around the world. They knew that if they could target this unit, combating the virus was possible. Since then, there have been multiple treatment suggestions, some which the FDA approved of, some which they didn’t and some which the FDA pulled back after giving initial approval.

Currently, a number of treatment options are under experiment and research, which the scientists believe hold the potential to treat the COVID-19 infection without producing any side effects in humans. Let’s have a look at these new drug candidates and treatment options.

11a and 11b

After researchers found out that there was a protease unit in SARS-CoV-2, without which it couldn’t possibly survive, they were able to come up with two new compounds – that they referred to as 11a and 11b. These new compounds were able to target the protease unit in the COVID-19 virus and inhibit it. After monitoring the anti-viral activity of 11a and 11b, they found out that they were quite effective in fighting the infection.

The plus point of using these compounds was that the enzyme that they target to fight the infection was absent in humans, which meant little or no side effects in humans. 11a was found to be less toxic. Therefore, 11a is now one of the many new candidates that are under further study. 

Remdesivir 

Originally developed for the treatment of the Ebola virus, Remdesivir received an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) by the FDA for COVID-19 on May 1, 2020. According to the FDA, it can be administered in children and adults who’ve been hospitalized for COVID-19, via the IV (intravenous) route. It is still an investigational drug and there are no FDA-approved indications for it. However, it has shown a ray of hope in the treatment of COVID-19 infections in Japan.  

EIDD-2801 

Although EIDD-2801 has no FDA approval or an EUA yet, it is under investigation for the treatment of the coronavirus. One of the benefits that END-2801 has over Remdesivir is that it can be administered orally; therefore it can be used without hospitalization. It has shown promising activity against SARS-CoV-2 and MERS in animals, but whether or not it is safe for humans is still under evaluation. Clinical trials have already been conducted in May, but the results are pending.    

Suramin

It is an anti-parasite molecule which is used for the treatment of river blindness and African sleeping sickness. It is a broad-spectrum antiviral that is effective against HIV, hepatitis C, Zika virus, herpes simplex type-1, and chikungunya viruses. According to studies conducted, it might be a possible candidate for the treatment of a COVID-19 infection. It was found to offer complete protection against the cell death induced by SARS-CoV-2 and reduces the extracellular RNA levels in the virus. 

The study suggested that it can be used as an effective treatment in patients that are still in an early phase of the infection, particularly at the stage of entry in the host cells or viral binding. There have been no clinical trials yet to check its efficacy and safety in humans. 

3-Drug Combination

Phase-II clinical trials have been conducted on a 3-drug combo of Interferon beta-1b, ribavirin and Lopinavir-ritonavir, and this combination has been found to be effective when it comes to treating less severe cases of COVID-19. The trial was 14-days long, in which one group of 86 patients was given these three drugs, while the control group of 41 volunteers were given lopinavir and ritonavir only. The first group should have effective virus clearance after just 7 days, whereas, in the control group, it took an average of 12 days. The best outcome of these trials was that there were no serious adverse effects. 

According to results, researchers suggest that interferon beta-1b might be the star component of this treatment combo. Further investigation is underway.  

Favilavir

Favilavir is an already marketed anti-viral medicine. It inhibits RdRp. It has been approved for the COVID-19 infection treatment in China and Italy, but it still lacks the approval by the FDA. Phase-II clinical trials were conducted to see how effective this broad-spectrum antiviral was against COVID-19. The trials were 25 days long. It was administered to 760 CVODI-19 positive patients at the end of May in Canada. The results are yet to be released. However, some other studies conducted on the same drug molecule don’t suggest it as an effective treatment option for the COVID-19 infection. 

Baricitinib

Baricitinib is an oral drug. This JAK1/JAK2 inhibitor is in Phase-III trials at present to see its effects in hospitalized COVID-19 patients. It is an oral drug that is available in the market by the name Olumiant for the treatment of moderate to severe active rheumatoid arthritis. Its efficacy against SARS-Cov-2 is yet to be found. 

Closing Word

Several potential treatment options for the COVID-19 infection are still under investigation and testing. While there are plenty of them at the moment, none of them have been approved by the FDA as the ultimate treatment option. Hydroxychloroquine was one of the most-hyped treatment options that the FDA had given an EUA for the treatment of COVID-19, but after the discovery that its side effects outweigh the benefits, the FDA pulled the EUA back. Although there are many treatment options on the list right now, the safety of all of them still need to be evaluated. It seems like there is still a long way to go. 

In the meantime, there are things you can do to protect yourself. Some are well known, such as wearing masks (which help prevent your molecules from spreading to others(, six-foot distancing, staying home as much as possible and most important and avoiding crowds, wash your hands frequently!  

Additionally, try to stay as healthy as possible by taking vitamins (vitamin D and C are the most important) and any immune boosters. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables and visit your doctor to get the most efficient advise on your health! 

Physician Discipline and Conduct

A physician reading patient records

New York is home to great many licensed physicians, most of whom are highly capable professionals who display great dedication, care and diligence to help those in need and improve the health of their patients. 

After getting your physician license in New York, you can enter the practical field and begin working as a physician at any medical institute of your preference.

However, it is important to note that there is a serious code of conduct regarding physician discipline, which, if you break in any way you can end up getting your license revoked or even get a temporary suspension from work.

This usually happens in two cases: 

  • The physician’s practice of medicine is seriously deficient 
  • The physician is dishonest in his/her work that can lead to an impairment of the profession as well as the quality of patient care.

Complaints Filed Against Physicians 

In case either of the above-mentioned scenarios does happen to be true, it often results in a complaint being filed against the physician in question.

There are numerous groups of bodies of people who filed the complaints.

They typically include:

  • The public at large such as patients, family members, relatives and friends. More than half the complaints about physicians actually come from the public alone.
  • Licensed health professionals, be it other physicians or physician assistants are required to file a complaint against any physician colleague who they suspect to be guilty of misconduct.
  • Health facilities or organizations where the physician works are also expected to report disciplinary actions that go against the medical code of conduct.

When Do Physicians Get Charged for Misconduct?

There are numerous instances in which doctors may be charged for misconduct.

Some of the most common occurrences include:

  • Guaranteeing a cure to a patient without any research or confirmation.
  • Being involved in drugs and alcohol.
  • Neglecting a patient in need who required immediate care and attention.
  • Harassing, abusing or intimidating a patient.
  • Failure to maintain proper records of patients that reflect their accurate medical evaluations.
  • Performing a medical treatment or service that hasn’t been approved or authorized by the patient.
  • Exploiting the patient by selling drugs, goods or other services in an exploitative manner.
  • Displaying bias towards a patient on the basis of their creed, race, color or origin.
  • Revealing personal information about a patient without their consent except when authorized by the law.
  • Allowing people without a license to perform a medical activity that does, in fact, require a license.
  • Continuing your professional practice with an inactive or a suspended license.

Who Gets Reported?

There have been numerous cases in the past that have ended with the physician in question being reported and subject to disciplinary action.

Some of the case examples include:

  • Failure to treat a patient with an ovarian cyst and an inability to properly investigate a patient’s medical history who complained of chest pain. This created a case of serious incompetence where the physician had to surrender his license.
  • Pleading guilty for conducting moral unfitness by displaying sexual inappropriateness with a patient leading to a suspension of license.
  • Failure to perform ultrasound examinations of a patient leading to an inability to interpret the reading, which resulted in their license being revoked due to incompetence and negligence.
  • Guilty of prescribing medicines and drugs to a patient without conducting any medical check-up or analyzing their medical history.
  • Giving too high a drug dosage to the patient against what should’ve been given that created dangerous side effects.
  • Found guilty of writing notes for patients stating that they were disabled in an attempt to get fare discounts on rail lines, subways and other areas where discounts can be exploited. The physician in question had his license suspended for five years and then five years of probation during which the doctor had to perform community service.

Different Types of Penalties for Misconduct 

Physicians in New York are subject to a variety of penalties for misconduct based on the extremity and seriousness of their doings.

The medical board is expected to take whatever action necessary against a medical professional’s license.

These actions typically include:

  • Community service for 500 hours or more
  • Annulment of a license of registration
  • Being reprimanded or censured
  • A fine up to $10, 000 for each type of guilt performed by the individual
  • Revocation
  • Different types of suspensions, such as partial suspension or actual suspension for a fixed time period.
  • Limiting the physician’s license to a particular medical practice or area
  • Making one take a course of training or educating for a definite period of time

Who Handles the Complaints?

The New York State Office of Professional Medical Contact (OPMC) follows through with any complaints that are brought to their attention. 

Final Word

There are a few important things to note about the New York State physician license.

Firstly, the ultimate disciplinary actions are public information, and once the physician is served, the charges filed against them will be made public.

Secondly, the investigative files are highly confidential that may include previously closed complaints, ongoing investigations as well as the identities of the complainants.

Lastly, resolving complaints against physicians can take a lot of time, even months, given how medical conduct investigations are so complex in nature. Some cases end up going to court hearings that can potentially take even longer than that.

However, a timely investigation is always a priority in order to protect the patients as well as the medical organization in question.

What You Need to Know About Obtaining a New York State Physician License

A physician at work

In our previous article, we gave a brief overview of how to get a physician licence in the state of New York. Now, let’s delve further into this process in order to get a more detailed idea of the process for obtaining a licence. 

In the state of New York, the New York State Education Department’s Office of the Professions, together with the New York State Board for Medicine regulates the licensing for practitioners and physicians. Here’s some essential information you will need to know about this process. 

Limits of a Physician’s License 

Even though New York State is responsible for authorizing licensure for physicians treating a wide array of conditions, the state does not certify physicians who are choosing to specialize in a particular field. These may include specialty areas such as surgery, internal medicine, pediatrics, gynecology and many subspecialties. The designations that physicians use are primarily decided by specialty certification boards of organizations meant for licensed professionals. Other limitations may also include periodic renewal, prohibiting applications for DEA or practicing telemedicine until the state license is completed. 

No Room for Error 

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The Application for Licensure and First Registration includes information about your education, examinations taken, criminal records and other personal histories. Even though there’s a long application process in getting your license, you must pay attention to every detail and avoid any mistakes. All documents you submit either on paper or online are official; hence, one should always take their time to complete these forms carefully, making sure that the name and other information are used in exactly the same way on each document. Any errors in these would cause many months of delays and complications in the licensing process or even render the application void. 

On the off chance of an unexplained delay in your licensing, here are a few steps you can take: 

If you have a copy of the application, review it for errors, speak to your supervisor, request an update by sending a formal letter, call your soon-to-be-employer in case you have signed a contract because they may be able to help sort out the problem.

Renewal of Your license 

Even though your professional license is good for life, once you are issued your license, you are periodically required to renew it every two years with the help of the New York State Education Department’s Office of the Professions. As per regulation, if your license is nearing its expiration date, you must get it renewed within five months before it expires. At the same time, if it does expire, don’t prolong the renewal process more than for months.

Doctor with Stethoscope

The Office of the Professions will duly notify you that your license is nearing its expiration date, but in case you don’t receive a notice from them, it’s your job to get it renewed accordingly. If one misses their renewal deadline, they will have to contact the board for a Delayed Registration Application and may be fined or face disciplinary action. 

Suspension and Revocation 

NYS Medical Laws and Regulations under education law Article 131-A- are very strict in defining malpractice, incompetence, and grounds for revoking a physician’s license. On the occasion of a complaint, the OPMC (Office of Professional Medical Conduct) will initiate an investigation and carry out a hearing. 

In such a situation, the licensee will have 30 days to comply with written communications from the department of health and to make available any relevant records in regard to the inquiry/complaint about the licensee’s professional misconduct. This period begins as soon as the state department initiates their communication and makes the circumstance known to the physician in question. The board can impose many penalties, including suspension or revocation of a physician’s license, limiting the physician’s practice to a specific area or fine up to $10,000.

A Physician Information Profile 

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New York State has made it a requirement for a licensee to use the Federation Credentials Verification Service to centralize one’s documentation and certification. The service provides a very convenient and quick way for you to manage all your licenses and credentials in one place, which can be used by state medical boards for obtaining education information verified by the primary source for those applying for licensure. 

After a physician’s documentation and identity verification, a “Physician Information Profile” is made, which can be accessed by you anytime and can be sent to any state board or institution of your choice. Once your profile is received by New York State, they will carry out necessary evaluations to ensure that your education complies with New York licensure requirements. It also allows others to screen your application for errors, makes applying for licenses a lot easier in the future and benefits physicians in helping them file their qualifications to achieve a career in medicine.  

Mental Health

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There has been a long-standing debate regarding mental health within the medical professional community where individuals are reluctant to seek care for mental health in concerns that doing so could affect their license to practice. Under a survey of Physician-Friendly States for Mental Health published in the Qualitative Research in Medicine and Healthcare, it was noted that New York happens to be one of those states that are incredibly physician-friendly, with no mental health or impairment questions.

In another analysis of medical licensure application questions, New York State’s application process was one of the 16 medical license boards’ applications that were rated as “consistent,” in which the rating depended on the application either refraining from asking about mental health conditions or limited their questions to “current impairment” from a mental health condition. 

On a separate note, but one which newly licensed attorneys (and physicians) should be aware of during this COVID-19 crisis,  Carolyn Wolf, Executive Partner in Howard Fensterman’s law firm has recently written an article in Psychology Today on Liability Concerns When Practitioners Return to the Office

It may be a long process to get a physician’s license, but if an applicant keeps these few things in mind, your licensure may come as normally regulated without any mishaps or extra procedures and it is time for celebration!

The Impact of the COVID-19 Outbreak on the US 2020 Presidential Election

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As we all have been watching the catastrophic results of this pandemic, many of us have also been attentive to the countries that got hit the worst. In the beginning, it was China, then Italy and now the United States, although some might argue that the numbers of those affected here is in direct relation to the amount of testing that was done since the US has done far more testing per capita than any other country.

Regardless of how the numbers were obtained, the result is that, as of the writing of this blog,  there are 2,760,664 confirmed cases of the virus and 128,951 deaths. But the beginning of the year was in a happier tone and the future looked bright. The economy was doing well. And then – COVID-19 and with it, not only did the situation in the country flip upside down, but the certainty regarding the US Presidential Elections 2020 seems to have blurred.

While President Donald Trump isn’t ready to postpone the Presidential Elections for 2020, his supporters are skeptical about how the elections will proceed as per the plan. The coronavirus pandemic continues to affect hundreds and thousands of Americans every day and one can assume that the fear and panic will stay with people all the way up to the elections.

At present, everyone in the US has the same question – will the Presidential Elections 2020 proceed as per the plan? If yes, how?

From the candidates to the voters, nobody has a clue of how to cope up with the impact, as we have hit unexplored territory. Let’s see if you can find answers to some of your questions. 

How COVID-19 is Impacting the US Presidential Elections

The 46th US Presidential Election is set to take place on November 3rd, 2020. Americans have two options; either to re-elect Donald Trump as their president or give former Vice President Joe Biden a chance at running the country.

However, it is not clear about how voters will exercise their right to vote while we struggle with the ongoing pandemic. Citizens are looking to the government to devise a fair, free, secure, accessible and above all, a safe method that can enable them to cast their votes.

People are reluctant to step out and join a crowd that will be gathered on Election Day. Since the WHO keeps stressing the importance of social distancing, the idea of conducting elections doesn’t seem to be the right idea. The question is – if people can’t vote in the traditional way (ballot voting), then what?

The COVID-19 outbreak has left little room for the regular assembly-driven, interactive process of election campaigns, primaries and party conventions. The elections in the US are decentralized and therefore, every state has to make their call whether they want to continue with the current schedule of moving the elections forward. 

What Voting Options are Available?

While moving ahead with the traditional voting method doesn’t seem to be the best option right now, different voting methods are being considered.

More Polling Stations in Every District

Photo of a polling station

The first option is to increase the number of polling stations in every district to prevent overcrowding. With a fewer number of voters at each polling station, it’ll be a lot easier for the authorities to follow the standard COVID-19 SOPs, (Standard Operating Procedures), which include maintaining a distance of at least six feet and wearing masks. However, despite being a highly possible option, it is quite costly.

It’ll require the government to hire more staff, train them, provide them with all the needed protective equipment and arrange additional voting machines for the new polling stations. There is also an option to increase the number of days for which voting stays open. However, that too will require additional staff. 

Mail-In Voting

Illustration of a voting ballot

This is a contentious issue. An option that is very political and controversial due to the fear of fraudulent ballots being sent, but five states have already elected to do so during their primaries.

Besides the argument of fraud, mail-in voting is extremely time-consuming and costly. It is very expensive and comes with a lot of complications. It’ll require the government to print mail-in ballots, which aren’t the same as the ballots used for-person voting. Moreover, the authorities have to arrange for pre-paid return postage to make sure that the poorer communities can participate as well. Lastly, the processing of the ballots won’t be straightforward. It’ll require specialized machines and equipment and the training of all the workers involved. 

All of it revolves around the assumption that the states have mail details of every eligible voter of the country, which is not the case in reality. While the state can have eligible voters to register online, not everyone will abide by it. 

If everything does work out as an ideal situation, the state will have to ensure that the public is aware of how a vote-by-mail system works and what their role will be. 

Postponing the Election?

Postponing the US Presidential Elections is possible but not a very likely scenario. The President, even if he is willing, can’t postpone the elections unilaterally. The US Congress will have to enact legislation for the postponement of the elections. Since, according to the US constitution, the new President has to take charge on January 20, 2021, there isn’t much flexibility when it comes to this situation.

Therefore, the only option that the state has is to conduct elections while ensuring that all SOPs are being followed and the social distancing is maintained. 

Closing Word

No one could have guessed that there’ll be so much uncertainty to the US presidential elections this year. The election campaigns are struggling with the pandemic and the situation doesn’t seem to be ending any time soon. All thanks to this outbreak that is currently in its sixth month with no solution in sight. It will be very interesting how this situation turns out and definitely one for the history books! 

The Different Kinds of Responses Proposed for COVID-19 by Countries

Mask and gloves

COVID-19 has affected 8,281,451 people up till now, out of which, 446,461 people lost their lives fighting the battle. The disease starts with symptoms like mild flu, dry cough, fever and chills. People don’t really do much about it, thinking it will go away. However, it’s not long before their symptoms worsen, the fever gets high, they feel chills and eventually find it difficult to breathe normally.   

How is COVID-19 Infection Different from Normal Flu? 

It is a highly contagious infection that is transmitted through the respiratory droplets of the affected person. The COVID-19 virus is not airborne. It is when a COVID-19 patient coughs or sneezes that their respiratory droplets are fired into the air, towards the people near them. When a person inhales these droplets or touches a surface that is contaminated with the respiratory droplets of an infected person and touches their face, they can get infected. What makes the COVID-19 infection different from ordinary flu is that there is no known treatment. No vaccine can keep one from getting infected or a drug that can treat the patients. Moreover, unlike the flu, the COVID-19 virus spreads throughout the lungs and affects the breathing capability of an individual. 

As a result, they’re put on artificial breathing support (ventilator). Some get recovered while those with pre-existing medical conditions have more of a struggle because they are already compromised.

What Can Be Done?

Since the treatment of the coronavirus infection doesn’t exist, all the doctors try to do is manage the symptoms. However, the only way to keep oneself protected from initially getting infected is to maintain social distance and wear a mask when outdoors. WHO recommends keeping a distance of at least six feet from other people. The farthest the virus can travel when a person coughs or sneezes is less than six feet. Moreover, when you’re wearing a mask, you are limiting the chances of others getting infected by you.   

In case someone in your family gets tested positive for COVID-19 and their condition isn’t so bad that they need to be hospitalized, the best thing to do is isolate them. Keeping them in a separate room and maintaining no physical contact with them will ensure that the rest of the family stays safe. Additionally, you should disinfect your house or apartment. Common household disinfectants are recommended such as Lysol or other cleaners that contain disinfectant ingredients. All common areas should be cleaned including bathrooms. You might want to consider a professional to do it for you if you are uncomfortable doing it yourself. 

This is the primary safety protocol that has been put forward by health authorities all over the world. Different countries took different steps to keep the spread of the virus in control and contain the numbers of affected persons to a minimum. Many countries moved towards nationwide lockdown. Let’s have a look at how countries responded to the coronavirus disease.   

Australia

Australia is one of the countries that flattened the curve the fastest. The country closed its borders as soon as the pandemic hit Australia and cases started surfacing. The government declared strict rules to maintain social distancing in public places and community centers, churches, schools, clubs, entertainment venues and beaches were closed. 

New South Wales, Australia entered alert level four 15 days after the 100th case was reported. However, in just eight days after this, it had controlled the spread significantly and entered into alert level three.  Australia surely responded to the pandemic at the right time and took all the right steps that kept the COVID-19 spread well under control.

Italy

We all know how badly the outbreak hit Italy. With thousands of new cases every day, it seemed like there was no stopping to the pandemic in Italy. Italy underestimated the gravity of the situation and responded pretty late. However, when it finally responded, it managed the outbreak very effectively. The country took strict measures. Apart from closing down all public places, they declared a country-wide lockdown and even closed all their essential businesses. The delay caused Italy about 27,000 deaths. However, with strict social distancing protocols and lockdown, they managed to reduce its spread rate significantly.  

New York

The COVID-19 pandemic sucked the life out of the city that never sleeps. The virus spread rapidly and ended up overwhelming the healthcare system. New York City, like Italy, had undermined the virus and it declared a lockdown only after the number of COVID-19 cases peaked, then a complete lockdown followed. From a staggeringly high rate of more than 6,000 cases every day in April, New York managed to bring the number down to less than 1,000 cases a day in June.  

Singapore

Singapore has been one of the most successful countries to have managed the COVID-19 outbreak. It took the right measures early on and controlled the situation without having to move towards a complete lockdown. Singapore ran COVID-19 tests extensively. They ensured strict quarantining and created a highly efficient contact tracing system. It quickly entered alert level three from alert level four. However, the only mistake they did was get overconfident about the fact that they had combated the pandemic. As a result, a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic hit the country that took it back to alert level four.

China

This discussion can’t come to an end without the mention of China. It all started in China, but today, it is one of the few countries that have lifted the lockdown and returned to a normal routine. While the virus spread rapidly, China managed to contain it and bring the number of daily cases to zero. The question is – how did they do that?

China tested the people for COVID-19 for free. They built hospitals in a matter of days so that they could cater to the medical needs of the maximum number of people. Not only this, they literally walled off wards in existing hospitals to contain the spread. They also prioritized COVID-19 patients, as patients with other complaints weren’t entertained at the hospitals. Wuhan, the epicenter of the disease, was completely cut off from the rest of the country. The trains didn’t stop at Wuhan station and the flight operations were suspended. China made an excellent contact tracing system that aims to track every individual affected by the virus. Their contact tracing was efficient and their lockdown was strict.

All in all, China responded promptly and aggressively, which is why it is in a better position than the rest of the countries across the world today!

Closing Word

Countries around the globe responded differently. Some responded on time while some delayed responding. Some have been successful at containing the COVID-19 virus while others are still struggling. The only way to combat the virus successfully is – respond promptly and keep trying. The coronavirus pandemic isn’t something you can stay relaxed about and even though there are signs of the virus diminishing in certain areas, we need to still stay vigilant so that it doesn’t return or at least not in the ferocious way it did before. 

Economic Recovery after COVID-19

Illustration novel COVID-19 virus
Microscopic View of the the Novel COVID-19 Virus (Photo Unsplash.com)

The economies of countries all around the world have been impacted drastically by this pandemic. A substantial part of the economy has been shut down in an attempt to reduce social interactions, which is the only way (as of now) to keep the spread of COVID-19 in control. The world economy has experienced a sharp decline in the GDP, along with a rapid surge in unemployment. It is hard to tell just yet how massive the overall impact will be, and more importantly, how long it will last.

According to the IMF, the world economy was expected to grow by 3.3% in 2020, but it will actually shrink by 4.9%. They predict that if the countermeasures to the pandemic are successful, the world economy is expected to recover to achieve significant growth of 5.8% in 2021.

With that said, many countries have already started to open up. Although diminishing, COVID-19 is still with us, but it is just not possible to keep the economies hibernated for unknown periods of time. It is something even the strongest economies can’t sustain, let alone the countries that were already struggling to keep their heads above water before the pandemic hit.

Let’s see how soon complete economic recovery is possible and how different countries are working towards achieving it.

China

It all started in China. On 31st December 2019, China told the WHO about the outbreak of a pneumonia-like disease in many people in Wuhan. Back then, nobody knew what was causing the infection. On 12th January 2020, China publicly shared that the infections were being caused by a new virus, COVID-19, although controversy still looms over how long China waited before that made it public to the world and if things could have been different if that notified everyone earlier. However, we can’t change the past and so things began to escalate by March 11, 2020, WHO had declared COVID-19 as a global pandemic.

It took China three months to declare itself coronavirus-free. Although, after going 56 days with no new COVID-19 cases, a new case was reported on 11th June 2020.

China imposed strict lockdown and social distancing protocols in Wuhan in an attempt to contain the pandemic. During this time, the economy of China shrunk by 6.8% for the first time in 40 years. There was a noticeable decline in exports and the sales of consumer goods. However, China was soon on the road to economic recovery. 

In March, the economy of China started to get better, as essential businesses were opened.  In early April, China lifted the strict lockdown in the Wuhan city, which is considered the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak. It looks like China is working towards economic recovery slowly, but it remains to see what the world is going to do about this and if they will hold China responsible. Indeed, President Trump has already said that there will be consequences for China’s “mishandling” of the virus and the delay in which they let the world know.

Italy

The COVID-19 outbreak in Italy was worse than many other countries, including China. The death toll stands at the second-highest spot. Italy’s economy was already struggling with the after-effects of the oil crisis that hit the country in the 1980s. To try to control the COVID-19 outbreak from worsening any further, it imposed a strict lockdown. 

On 4th May 2020, Italy lifted the longest-ever lockdown that any country of Europe had seen. Because let’s face it – no country can have their economies shut down forever. With the lifting of lockdown, the basic economic activity was restored, and it seemed like the normal routine was returning. Construction and manufacturing plants were opened, followed by the opening of restaurants, cafes, libraries and museums. Soon, restrictions on domestic travel was also lifted and the borders with EU countries were also re-opened. It took Italy two months to reach a point where they could consider restoring their economic activities. While a complete economic recovery may take years, they do appear to be on the road to complete recovery.

Australia

Australia has been one of the few countries that managed to contain the COVID-19 outbreak early on. It imposed a strict lockdown soon after the number of COVID-19 positive cases started to rise. Like many other countries, the economy of Australia was impacted badly. The sales of consumer products declined drastically, unemployment surged, flight operations were suspended, the real estate market froze and tourism seemed to have come to a halt. However, Australia has finally started its journey to the road of economic recovery.

The government plans to either cut down its spending or increase the taxes to cover up for the losses due to COVID-19. The country has no plans whatsoever to restore international flight operations for the rest of the year, but it hopes that it will boost domestic travel. As a result of increased domestic travel, the economy will experience a significant boost. The government is also planning reforms that will aid in speedy economic recovery.

According to experts, the GDP is expected to shrink by 10 to 15% by the mid of the year. As the workplaces and economic activities begin to come back to normal, the economic recovery will pick up the pace. Experts predict that the economy will get better during the second half of the year. It might take the country about 18 months to reach its economic highs again. However, it may not be until the end of 2021 that the Australian economy recovers from the impact of COVID-19 completely.

New Zealand

The world is praising how New Zealand managed to combat COVID-19 like champions! However, the battle against COVID-19 didn’t come easy for them. The country’s economy was struck quite hard and it seems like it will take quite a while for it to come back to where it was before COVID-19 hit. The worst the economy of New Zealand had ever shrunk was to 1.7%, but it is at 4.6% at present. The tax collection up to June remained below the target, which has left with less money to spend. Unemployment rates have surged from 4% to 8.3%. Worst of all, New Zealand is facing revenue deficits for the first time in many years. However, with the lifting of the lockdown and the restoration of economic activity, it may take at least 10 months for the country to achieve a complete economic recovery.

Closing Word 

It looks like the world is learning to live with COVID-19. Countries all around the world are slowly opening up their economies. There is uncertainty surrounding complete economic recovery right now, but as they say – slow and steady wins the race. With smart strategies and gradual lifting of lockdowns, countries can successfully restore their normal routines and economic activities, without provoking the COVID-19 outbreak to get worse, which is a slippery slope but one that can be managed if done smartly and wisely. 

How to Get a Physician License in New York

doctor holding red stethoscope

It’s no secret that the medical profession involves a complex series of training and exams before a doctor can enter the medical field. However, getting a physician license in the Big Apple tends to present a whole new set of challenges on its own.  

The process requires you to pass multiple Medical Licensure Examinations, complete a residency program, collect certain certificates and meet other eligibility criteria before you can even apply. It goes without saying, there’s a hefty amount of paperwork involved too.  

The following article covers the basics of what you generally need to know.

Regulation of MDs in the State

The New York State Board of Medicine governs the rules and regulations for licensing and practicing medicine in the region.  

However, the Office of the Professions, a part of the New York State Education Department also plays an important role. In fact, it is the main body that maintains the records and licensing information, in addition to issuing the permit itself.

The application and fees for the license need to be submitted to the Office of the Professions.

General Requirements

According to the State’s Board of Medicine, anyone interested in working as a physician in New York must:

  • Be aged 21 or above
  • Have a good moral character
  • Fulfill the academic, examination, and experience criteria (discussed in detail later)
  • File an application along with the specified fee in full 

Licensing Fee

Currently, the application fee for obtaining a physician license in New York is $735. 

Note that this is separate from all the test registration fees which ought to be submitted at the time of appearing for the respective exam. 

The licensing fee is subject to change, so make sure to check if it has been revised at the time you apply. 

Applicants can pay the fees via money order or a personal check. Cash is not acceptable. 

The check/ money order, along with the application form needs to be mailed to:

New York State Education Dept
Office of the Professions
P.O. Box 22063
Albany, NY 12201

If you are a foreign practitioner applying from outside the U.S., make sure that you make the payment on a U.S. bank and in U.S. currency.

Education and Experience Requirements

Based on the education and experience required, the eligibility criteria for becoming a licensed physician in New York can be divided into four main parts:

  1. Get an ECFMG certificate (for foreign candidates only)
  2. Register with FCVS
  3. Complete a residency program
  4. Pass USMLE Step 3 Exam

Completing each of these steps is a long and hard journey and can constitute a lengthy guide of its own. Here, we have highlighted the major aspects of each article that can provide you with a good idea of what’s involved.

Get an ECFMG Certificate

If you have received your degree from a medical school located outside the U.S., you will need an ECFMG certificate.

The Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG) is a governing body that helps international candidates find and pursue a career in medicine in the U.S.

In order to get certified by the ECFMG, you will need to submit an identification form along with your final medical school transcript.

You can submit your documents in hardcopy although they have an online portal to make things more convenient. 

You will also need to pass the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) Step 1 and Step 2 exams. The total fees for each of these exams is $790. The Step 2 exam has a second module that costs an additional $1,375.

Register with FCVS

The Federation Credentials Verification Service (FCVS) provides a standard for the relevant authorities in all states to view and verify the medical credentials of any physician practicing in the country. 

You can register online or send your application by mail. The documents required for this step include photocopies of your:

  • Medical degree
  • Clinical clerkship
  • Training certificate
  • ECFMG certificate
  • Proof of identification 

The charges for this step range upwards of $325.

Complete a Residency Program

Once you have created a profile at FCVS, you need to find a residency program, sometimes also called a fellowship program. These medical training programs must be endorsed by the Accrediting Council on Graduate Medical Education. 

Generally, residency programs take 3 to 7 years to complete. But in some cases, you can apply for the next step while still serving as a resident.

Pass USMLE Step 3

The last requirement for receiving a physician license in New York is to clear the USMLE Step 3 exam.

To save time, you can fill out the application form before appearing for this module. However, the license will not be issued until you have submitted proof of passing this exam.

According to the USMLE board, it’s best to take Step 3 after competing (or when you are close to completing) the first year of your postgraduate training in a U.S.-accredited medical education program.

End Note

We hope this gives you a general idea of what’s involved regarding acquiring a physician’s license. We suggest you follow up with researching the processes and exams mentioned. If we were to provide all the information here, it would probably extend to over 100 web pages. 

With that said, here is a general summary. There is a required completion of a residency program of a minimum of three years (in any state) as well as passing Step 1 to 3 of the USMLE test. Your eligibility for becoming a licensed physician is also subject to various additions certifications but all in all, it is well worth it. According to the data collected by Indeed, physicians in New York have an average annual income of at least $230,000 – which is a whopping 15% above the national average!

How to Deal with Indigestion

Illustration of bacteria under a magnifying glass in the bowels

Indigestion is a feeling of discomfort in the upper abdomen and chest. You also may feel bloated. There can be many factors associated with this discomfort.

Ulcers and gallbladder diseases can cause it or on a lighter note, it could have been something that you ate and didn’t agree with you. Food allergies are another possibility. Whatever the cause, indigestion can be uncomfortable and painful and can compromise a person’s otherwise normal lifestyle.

Frequent indigestion can also be a sign of a weak gut. People with a weak gut may suffer from frequently because their body struggles to digest complex foods. Since indigestion is not a long term condition, it flares up occasionally or in some cases, more often and then dies down. Unfortunately, there is no continuous treatment for it. However, by eating healthy and avoiding unhealthy food choices, a person can mitigate the risk of getting indigestion.

What exactly is indigestion, and how can a person manage it are some of the most common questions that are asked about the condition. If you are also looking for answers, then continue reading.

Understanding Indigestion

Indigestion or dyspepsia can occur due to a bunch of reasons, but when it happens it can present itself through the following signs

  • Discomfort in the stomach
  • Abdominal Pain
  • Bloating
  • Nausea
  • Heartburn
  • Vomiting

Some other less common symptoms of indigestion are

  • Gas or belching in the abdomen
  • Gnawing sensation in the stomach
  • Burning sensation in the stomach
  • Feeling unnaturally full after eating a medium-sized meal
  • Feeling dull
  • Having difficulty finishing a meal

In the case of a severe episode of indigestion, a person may feel

  • Continuous vomiting
  • Vomiting with blood
  • Black stool
  • Trouble swallowing food

If you experience severe symptoms of indigestion, then visit your doctor immediately or go to the emergency room.

Causes of Indigestion

Fast Food Hamburger
Photo by Rajesh TP from Pexels

In everyday life, in the absence of an underlying cause, indigestion can occur due to overeating or eating too fast. Some people may face indigestion after consuming some specific types of food, such as spicy, greasy, or fatty food. Sometimes, lying down immediately after having food can also increase the chances of indigestion as the posture makes digestion harder for the body.

Some common causes of indigestion are

  • Smoking
  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Exposure of the gut to complex foods (that are hard to digest like highly processed foods)

Sometimes. Some medicines can also cause indigestion. You must read the side effects of drugs before consuming them. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen, aspirin, and naproxen are notorious for having side effects in some patients.

When a person has an underlying gut problem, they can experience indigestion quite frequently. Some frequent indigestion causing gastrointestinal conditions are

  • Acid Reflux Disease (GERD)
  • Gastric Cancer
  • Pancreatic or bile duct abnormalities
  • Peptic ulcers

Ulcers cause blisters and sores over the inner lining of the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum, which can lead to frequent indigestion.

Even though rare, but it’s possible that sometimes a person may experience indigestion without a known cause. That form of indigestion is known as functional dyspepsia. Functional dyspepsia or FD may come about due to the abnormal muscle movement of the gut. When the gastrointestinal lining in the body squeezes too tight while digesting food, a person can experience indigestion. And since, in such a case, there is no identifiable cause, a patient cannot take any measures to avoid abnormal muscle movement in the gut.

How can Indigestion be Diagnosed?

When you start experiencing frequent symptoms indicating dysfunction in your GI system, make an appointment with your doctor. The doctor will ask you detailed questions about your diet habits. They will also run some blood tests and get scans of your stomach to rule out any underlying conditions.

In some cases, the doctor may ask you to take a stool test to check the percentage of bacteria in your stool to rule out peptic ulcers.

If all the tests come out clean, then the doctor may suggest an endoscopy. During an endoscopy, the doctor inserts a tube with a camera inside your body to check the inner lining of your gut. An endoscopy helps to spot blisters and other telltale signs of a damaged lining. Using the procedure, the doctor can diagnose the following conditions (which is why a person may experience frequent indigestion)

  • Infection Cancer
  • Inflammatory diseases
  • Ulcers
  • Reflux esophagitis

Once the doctor figures out the underlying cause of indigestion in a patient, they can give them a line of action to manage the condition effectively

How to Treat Indigestion?

Specific medicines can help ease the symptoms of indigestion. However, they may have some other side effects occasionally. The most commonly prescribed drugs to treat indigestion are

Prokinetics

Prokinetics are prescription medications like Motilium and Reglan that control the muscle movement in the gut and control motility. Motility is the uncontrolled movement of the muscles using metabolic energy. Some come side effects of prokinetic medicines are

  • Tiredness or Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Involuntary spasms or muscle movements

Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs)

PPIs reduced acid in the stomach that can considerably ease the symptoms during an episode of indigestion. However, like other medicines, PPIs can have other side effects on the body. Those side effects may include

  • Backache
  • Dizziness or grogginess
  • Abdominal pain
  • Cough
  • Constipation
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Light-headedness or headache

H2 Receptor Antagonists

H2 receptor medicines like Zantac and Pepcid can significantly reduce stomach acid and hence, be useful in easing the symptoms of indigestion. Some common side effects of H2 receptor antagonists are

  • Rash with or without itching
  • Constipation
  • Bruising or bleeding
  • Headache
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea or vomiting

Even though the chances of having an adverse reaction to consuming the mentioned medicines are slim to none, they are still a possibility.

Home Remedies

Some natural food items can help subside symptoms of indigestion substantially. The most common organic food choices for indigestion are

  • Chamomile tea
  • Peppermint tea
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Ginger
  • Fennel Seeds
  • Lemon water

Incorporating these food items in your daily routine can bring down the frequency of indigestion in people.  

If you frequently face the problem of indigestion, then avoid greasy and spicy foods as much as possible and get yourself checked to rule out underlying medical conditions that can cause indigestion.