Published By: Build Health International

Forbes: Stories from the Coronavirus Frontlines

BHI Co-Founder and CEO Dr. David Walton was in a Forbes article along 15 other doctors from across the US. Forbes brought these doctors’ stories together in honor of National Doctors Day. You can read the full article here.

Dr. Walton is a clinician at Brigham Women’s Hospital. He’s also CEO and cofounder of Build Health International, a nonprofit organization helping to build healthcare infrastructure in impoverished communities. 

I come at this from a different angle. I have worked in global health for a long time. I was in Haiti during the cholera epidemic and in Sierra Leone during the Ebola epidemic. This is the first time in dealing with an epidemic that I’ve encountered shortages. We’ve always had the appropriate PPE in the places I’ve worked. Here we’re reusing our N95s. We’re reusing our goggles and face shields. I think our PPE shortages are going to compound and get increasingly worse. I’m very comfortable “MacGyvering” but I don’t think everyone else is. I think I put my risk of falling ill within the understandable risk of doing my job. This is what we signed up for.

I wish I could tell you that I have a positive outlook, but I don’t think that’s realistic. I’m bracing myself for things to get much worse, just based on science and what we know about the virus transmission. I’m worried about what happens to our healthcare system when it bends to the point of breaking and we cannot deal with the patients we are receiving. If you look at Italy, it’s a real wake-up call to what could happen here. I think there will be worse outcomes for people who are marginalized. When I think about the mortality rate—that’s in places where you have ventilators and you have hospitals—what happens when this pandemic ravages countries that have such fragile health systems? I think it will be a catastrophe unlike anything we’ve seen before.