Being a WIC Parent During the COVID-19 Pandemic – Part 2

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When I am working from home, I am also the cook, tech support, and teacher to my kids, all while I am trying to read echocardiograms or participate on Zoom meetings. Some have felt that our kids Zoom-bombing meetings has brought a more personalized view of ourselves to those we work with. We see reality when our kids run in saying the WiFi is slow or asking for lunch. We have seen telehealth visits skyrocket and actually work for keeping up clinical volume. I suspect that telehealth will continue to some degree even when COVID-19 starts to be controllable.

Some aspects of cardiology such as noninvasive imaging – reading echocardiograms, MRIs, CTs and even some fetals – can be done from home. Obviously, the invasive arm of cardiology does not have that luxury. Most importantly, in this time of crisis, faculty need to feel supported in their choices. If their decision to work from home does not significantly affect patient care or RVUs, it should be allowed as an option. It should not matter why they need to work from home – it could be their own health risks, it could be childcare or eldercare, but no one should be penalized for that decision.

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I do not think it is breaking news that even in a dual income household, the mother still bears the brunt of the childcare. There have been multiple reports on the fact. This is not true for every family and every family's situation is different, but it is a substantial percentage. I think it would be burying our head in the sand if we did not at least acknowledge this inequity. Couple that with trying to work from home and it leads to issues with productivity.

One of my cardiology colleagues was working from home as was her husband, but somehow, he got the home office while she was still in charge of Zoom kindergarten. I have a running list of somber articles which articulate the fact that in academics, women have been and will be disproportionately affected by the current struggles with COVID-19. Many institutions have put a one-year hold on tenure track activity, but some fear that will just delay the promotions process. There has to be acknowledgement at each institutions' promotions committee that the COVID-19 era will need to be considered a "black hole" for productivity, meaning if a faculty member is still on track for promotion with scholarly activity, that is great news. However, another faculty member should not be penalized if they have been sidetracked due to the COVID-19 crisis. This will not just be for 2020 – there will be a trickle-down effect and projects that were not able to be started this year due to research being on hold or other obligations will not magically bounce back to where they should be by 2021.

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This is such a multifaceted issue, and it is not just specific to any one institution but is seen in academic centers nationwide. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to light some of the underlying societal gender inequities that have been in place for a long time. For many men, they have been able to work and be productive and be a parent at the same time. As a woman, why do we still have to choose?

Click here for part 1.

Grace C. Kung, MD, FACC

This article was authored by Grace C. Kung, MD, FACC, cardiologist at Children's Hospital Los Angeles in Los Angeles, CA.