Dr. Simlote: Going Above and Beyond to Create a COVID-Free Community
Posted by Paolo Gabriel Demillo
It was only a few months ago when the question of vaccine shortages and availability dominated the healthcare community. The situation has changed, and now the main hurdle's turned to convincing hesitant patients that the vaccines are safe. Regardless of what stage of the rollout you look at, however, it's the invaluable work of providers that has kept the country's vaccination numbers rising. Tackling one challenge after another, Dr. Pradeep Simlote is one such provider.
Determined to protect his community from the threat of COVID-19, Dr. Simlote of Allergy, Asthma & Sinus Care in California, Maryland, decided to be proactive. "I saw the need for better screening and monitoring for patients that were at higher risk of having a reaction from being vaccinated," he says. "I sought out the County Health Officer and asked how I could help."
Countering COVID Vaccine Hesitancy
Recognizing the need to help encourage more people to get vaccinated, Dr. Simlote did more than just encourage.
Sandra Moore, Practice Manager at Allergy, Asthma & Sinus Care, explains, "He saw the gap that high-risk vaccinations pose to a successful vaccination process. Where would high-risk vaccinations be given safely? Dr. Simlote stepped up and volunteered. He didn't just offer his professional services; he also donated the use of a medical facility to the St. Mary's County Health Department."
Considering the financial toll the pandemic has had on private practices, there are plenty of aspects to the situation that could have given Simlote pause, but he moved forward nonetheless. "Donating the use of my office space to the Health Department to vaccinate and monitor high-risk patients was an easy decision for me. It provided an actual office setting, complete with crash cart, to safely monitor those at higher risk. It was absolutely worth it, and I'd do it again in a heartbeat," he says.
"Since then, for probably the last month, we've been able to start administering the vaccines ourselves to patients instead of just providing our clinic to the county. It's been incredible. Getting to offer that, seeing how thankful people are. They're so thankful, and we're able to help provide this protection with the vaccines, and you can see just how much it means to them."
The doctor's attitude and enthusiasm served as a driving inspiration for his staff. "He has dedicated his time to giving back to his community. He has worked with the Health Department to streamline the screening process better, to get these patients vaccinated in a timely manner safely," says Moore. "For me, it's heartening to see someone step up when he could just step back. Our community is lucky to have Dr. Simlote."
Deep Rooted Love For His Community
California, Maryland, a small but growing unincorporated town of about 15,000 people, is a riverside community 50 miles south of Washington DC. Located right on the Patuxent River, California is home to plenty of natural beauty. "I like living in St. Mary's County," Simlote explains. "It's a historical region that has all the benefits of living on the Chesapeake Bay while maintaining that small-town feel."
He goes on, "It's a diverse community. We have a thriving Amish population alongside a booming technology sector. The juxtaposition of these two groups living within a few short miles of one another is not lost on me. And I think it's a privilege to be able to treat their respective populations."
A Doctor to His Community & A Friend to Everyone
A self-confessed people-person, Dr. Simlote enjoys building meaningful connections with his patients even beyond his clinic walls. "My wife and I wanted to live near our family and made the decision to move to Maryland," he recalls. "I like living in a small community. I enjoy getting to see my patients outside the office. I run into them at the market and at local events."
His friendly demeanor and desire to provide relief to his patients as quickly as possible are what drove him to choose allergy and immunology in the first place.
"Allergists can discuss the patient's history, prove an allergy through different forms of testing and develop a treatment plan, all on the first visit. Patients leave with answers right away," Simlote explains.
"I also wanted to treat patients of all ages. With other specialties, providers specialize in adult or pediatric treatment of conditions. I get to treat kids from just weeks old to kids enjoying their golden years."
Ensuring a Healthy Community During the Pandemic
Despite the dangers COVID-19 posed to him and his staff, Dr. Simlote's commitment never wavered. "My office never closed. While we initially saw patients through telehealth, my door remained open for those who needed to be seen in person," he says proudly. "My staff and I continue to be cautious, though. Hygiene, personal distance, and PPEs are still key components of our day. While my outlook is always positive, in the time of COVID-19, there is a healthy degree of caution mixed in."
Knowing that underlying health conditions are directly tied to severe COVID symptoms, Dr. Simlote has made sure that his patients continue to receive the care they need with little to no interruptions. "We all have an intrinsic need for human contact — to bond with our family and friends. I recognize that need in myself and have tried to address it with my patients who, just like me, wanted to protect themselves and their families but still have to see their doctor," he explains. "As their allergist who takes care of their asthma, as well, I know how important it is for my patients to be in their best health, should they contract COVID-19."
Educating Patients About Vaccines
With many people still wary and hesitant about getting the vaccine, Dr. Simlote leverages his voice as a trusted physician to dispel vaccine misconceptions and put his patients' worries at ease. "For the vaccines, now it's all about helping people know it's safe. There are plenty of people who are still hesitant, and our job is to talk to them," he explains. "Every week, I talk to and change the minds of another 18-20 people. It's slow, but each of those people is one more person protected. It's the least I can do for my community. As I said, I love this community, and for them, I'd do anything."
More than just giving back to his community, what Dr. Simlote hopes to achieve from his selfless service is to encourage his fellow doctors and healthcare professionals to help in any way they can. He has shown that there are plenty of ways to make a difference. All that's left is to take action. "Reach out. Seek out those in need. Think of where your skills and service are needed. Educating your patients about the COVID-19 vaccines is imperative."
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