Vegan, healthy lifestyle, COVID-19 vaccine: Interview with Dr. Alex McDonald

[et_pb_section fb_built=”1″ _builder_version=”3.22″][et_pb_row _builder_version=”3.25″ background_size=”initial” background_position=”top_left” background_repeat=”repeat”][et_pb_column type=”4_4″ _builder_version=”3.25″ custom_padding=”|||” custom_padding__hover=”|||”][et_pb_video src=”” _builder_version=”4.8.2″ _module_preset=”default” hover_enabled=”0″ sticky_enabled=”0″ alt=”COVID-19″ title_text=”covid 19 ” image_src=””][/et_pb_video][et_pb_text _builder_version=”3.27.4″ background_size=”initial” background_position=”top_left” background_repeat=”repeat”]

Dr. Alex McDonald is a family medicine doctor with a specialization in sports medicine. He focuses on treating the whole person. He is a big believer in exercise, nutrition, and sleep. In this interview, he discusses his approach to fitness, whole-foods plant-based diet, and sleep. He also discusses the COVID-19 epidemic, which has claimed millions of lives.

COVID-19 virus is a new coronavirus that has claimed close to 2 million lives. It spreads between people who are near one another. It is thought to spread by droplets that are produced when an infected person talks, breathes, coughs, or sneezes. These droplets can also land on the surface and then be transferred to another person by touching the same surface and then touching their own mouth, nose, or eyes.

The best way to protect yourself and others is by wearing a mask in public settings. Please remember the mask should cover your mouth AND your nose. In addition, it is important to physically distance yourself from others by 6 feet. As always, washing your hands often is time-tested advice that is even more important today.

Video Transcript

Sean Hashmi, MD

All right, welcome, everybody, to another episode. I’m delighted to introduce to you guys today, somebody that I am honored to call a friend, a colleague who, you know, it’s funny because what the way I kind of got an inside peek into Dr. McDonald’s sort of lifestyle was I got a Peloton bike. And so, I’m like, you know, let me put some people on there and see who’s on there. And I get this name and I’m looking at these things like the scores.

And I’m like, wait a second. I put on like 100 hundred kilojoules and this guy has a thousand. And then I go back, and I start looking at all these things and it’s like seven days a week for like the last three hundred and sixty-five days. So, Alex, I’m delighted to have you on the show today. I absolutely admire you. I admire all the stuff you do. I follow you on social media.

I love what you have to post about it. It’s funny when I look at our philosophies, they’re so similar.  Mine on SELF Principle, which is sleep, exercise, love, and food. And the reason I came up with that was when I was studying the blue zones and all the research that I do as part of my nutrition role. It was interesting to see how the combination of these four concepts sleep more, move more, practice gratitude and kindness, build social relationships, and eat a Whole Foods Plant-Based Diet.

When you put all of those together, that was literally the basis for all these centenarian studies that I was finding. But let me ask you, so the folks, there’s going to be a lot of people watching this who don’t know you. I know you and I think you’re awesome. But let me ask you please tell us a little bit about who you are, what you do, what your philosophy is?

Alex McDonald, MD

Sure, you’re too kind.

I’m I feel like now I’m not going to live up to the hype. So, checks in the mail, by the way. So, I practice family medicine as well as sports medicine at SCPMG in Fontana. And then before that, my life before medicine raced as a professional triathlete. Hence, all the cycling numbers and data metrics and all that stuff. So, I just think of myself as a kind of a washed-up former, former professional triathlete.

So, I’m just trying to stay, just trying to stay fit compared to some of these other professional athletes. It’s nothing. So anyway, so that’s kind of my background. So as, as a family medicine physician, I’m truly passionate about preventative medicine and lifestyle medicine, too. Right. So, I tell patients any time I meet a new patient, I sort of give them sort of old spiel about kind of who I am. My philosophy as a physician.

And I tell them thirty minutes of exercise most days of the week, eight hours of sleep a night, a healthy Plant-Based diet, and then some kind of daily stress relief is those four things are going to do more for them than any medication I can ever prescribe. I always reach for those lifestyle things that are the foundation of any plan.

And I really sort of see myself as sort of their medical guide. Right. You have a financial advisor? I’m sort of my patients’ medical advisor. Right. I’m here to give them ideas, to make recommendations, but ultimately, it’s up to them to really do it. I really try to empower my patients to make small daily choices, which adds up to keep them healthy and to prevent them from getting sick. And if they do get sick, to get them healthy again, too. And so that’s kind of my overall philosophy. And what I kind of tell patients every single time, I meet them for the first time.

And I always joke that no one leaves my office without an exercise prescription and some kind of diet, dietary recommendations as well.

Sean Hashmi, MD

So, let me ask you, what is your typical day like? How do you sort of manage the stress, stay in shape, eat better?  What kind of stuff you do? And how could people sort of learn from that?

Alex McDonald, MD

Well, I mean, I think part of it, too. It is so individual, right? You know, it is kind of like brushing your teeth, right? Everyone does it in their own way, in their own time. But it ultimately gets the same goal done. It’s the same process, right? So, for me personally, I usually get up pretty early. I get up around five, five-thirty. Most mornings I do some kind of workout for half an hour to an hour.

And then I go in and get my kids and everyone ready for the day. I used to take them to school, but not right now for COVID-19. They just do school from home and then I’ll go to work and go about my day. I find the mornings when I don’t get up and exercise. I just have less tolerance. I have less ability to kind of handle the stress and little things kind of get to me more than they would otherwise too.

So, I tell people that exercise doesn’t fix the problems, but it makes everything a little bit easier. It makes everything a little more tolerable, so to speak, especially right now with all we’re dealing with, with COVID-19 in the huge surge of patients we’re experiencing. So, it’s my own. When I get up and the alarm goes off and I don’t want to get out of bed, I think to myself, I’m going to have a better day if I just get up and do it now.

And it’s just those first five minutes, once I’m up, once I’m going, it’s easy. It’s all about developing patterns. I always try to bring my own lunch. There’s invariably stuff around the hospital and around the clinic, which is not the healthiest option. So, I always try to bring my own. My own lunch with me. I try to do some meal prep on the weekends or purchase some Plant-Based foods. And then lastly, I always have a snack to go home with.

I have a handful of almonds or an apple that I always eat around four or five o’clock when I’m leaving the office or leaving the clinic, because I know if I get home without having had that snack ahead of time, I eat whatever I see because I’m starving at that point around six o’clock or so. So those are those are kind of my three tricks that I think about. And then on the weekends, I try to do a little bit more. Sleep in a little bit more and catch up on those other pieces.

Sean Hashmi, MD

But it’s funny because what you’re describing is almost identical to what I do.  And it’s funny. So, I wake up at four fifty on the dot every single day, but between five a.m. to 6:00 a.m. is the time that I spend reading all my nutrition studies and sort of it’s my time to catch up. And then at six a.m. I start my workout from six to seven every single time I start my workout. It says Your tag is exercising now… And who’s my tag?

It’s always you. I just want you to know it’s not because I’m stalking you, but it just so happens that every time I turn on.

Alex McDonald, MD

Our schedules are sink.

Sean Hashmi, MD

Yeah. I’m like, oh my God, you know, I haven’t worked out. I feel so guilty. Maybe Alex knows I haven’t been worked out. Got to get on the machine. So secretly. I mean, I’ve been dying to tell you this, but since I got that bike, it’s like every time I go on, yeah, there are a few other folks, but I forget which tag I picked.

Sean Hashmi, MD

But that tag is it’s like you and me and maybe like one or two other people.  But yeah, every time.

Alex McDonald, MD

That’s funny. Well, you know, and the funny thing too, and I guess we should tell our viewers, we’ve actually never physically met before, right?  We’ve emailed we’ve done calls and all of these things, but we’ve never actually physically met before. But we still have this connection, right? The cool thing about…about one being in such a great medical group that we work for. As well as sort of having this sort of online community.

Peloton connection. So, I’m biased, obviously. Full disclosure, I have a bike and a treadmill, which I obsessed with. So, but that’s the beauty in the power of community and knowing, hey, you know what I better go on the bike this morning, because if I’m not, I might…I might get called out by my friends, right.

Sean Hashmi, MD

 And it’s funny because your almond trick is actually my almond trick.

Alex McDonald, MD


Sean Hashmi, MD

I don’t know which one of us started at first, but that’s exactly what I do. So, I go to Trader Joe’s and I get there those individual packets. So that’s what I have around 3:00, 4:00 o’clock or so, just so that by the time I leave work, same exact thing. If I come home and I haven’t eaten like something like that, I am so hungry.

Alex McDonald, MD

Yeah. So, I’m trying to be like you, so I’ll give you credit.

Sean Hashmi, MD

At least I got one thing. OK, I’ll take the one.

Sean Hashmi, MD

OK, so let me switch topics a little bit because part of the reason I was looking really forward to talking to you was this has probably been the hardest year of my entire life in the medical profession. And it’s no surprise that COVID-19 has devastated us. It’s devastated millions of lives and it continues to cause an enormous amount of damage. And when the vaccines we were first talking about them and they just came out and about a couple of weeks ago, I got my first dose, and I was incredibly excited about it.

But there is so much confusion. There are so many concerns. One about COVID-19. Two, about talking about vaccines. What do the vaccines do? What they don’t do? And there’s a lot of confusion. So as a physician and as a health care provider, I feel like there’s an obligation that we have. And I know you’re doing so much great work, not just for the community, but also for other physicians to learn about this. So, let me start off by asking. Tell me a little bit about sort of your background in terms of community involvement, in terms of CMA, and what you’re doing there.

And then let’s get into a little bit about COVID-19.

Alex McDonald, MD

Absolutely. So, I’m…I’m a big believer, obviously, as you can tell in patient education. I love to educate my patients and empower them to avoid getting involved in organized medicine. So, through the California Medical Association, the California Academy of Family Physicians, and the American Academy of Family Physicians. I feel like I’m able to help participate in a larger level of work. Whether it be through Sacramento or through Washington D.C, to help advocate for public policy and health policy, which really helps make the healthy choice, the easy choice.

Right. Great example right now, the corn industry is so heavily subsidized that it’s cheaper to buy. Process high fructose corn syrup than it is to buy broccoli, right? I’m just exaggerating, obviously, but that’s a great example of health policy, which has real-world implications for our patients on a daily basis. So, I got involved in health policy and organized medicine as a resident and then just realized this is such a great way to not only educate one patient at a time but in mass, right?

And health really is so much more beyond the four walls of the clinic or the hospital. It’s really about where you eat, where you sleep, where you play…Job security, housing, you name it. Those things have far more impact on health than what we do as medical professionals. So that’s kind of where I got involved in organized medicine and realizing that really do try to help encourage health and to promote health within our communities, we need to be where our patients are.

And to be there, we need to be involved in health policy and public policy and have a relationship with our elected officials because that’s so important to us. That’s a little bit about my background and how I got involved.

Sean Hashmi, MD

Well, ok so moving forward from there. Now, let’s get into a little bit about COVID-19.

Alex McDonald, MD


Sean Hashmi, MD

And let me ask you, so first question is really: what are you seeing out there? What are sort of some of the biggest fears or concerns that your patients are having? And then what are some of the fears and concerns, your fellow health care providers have?

Alex McDonald, MD

Yeah, so, I mean, I think it should be important to let people know that I practice in the clinic as well as the hospital, too. So I kind of have both those perspectives. And in the clinical setting, we’re doing a lot of video visits and telephone visits with a lot of patients who are very anxious and very worried, reasonably so. But also, they’re being told by their employers that they have to get a COVID-19 test this many times and they have to get another one in a repeat negative COVID-19 test, which we know is not accurate and medically accurate, right?

So there’s a lot of misinformation that patients are being told from their employers, from their family members, from politicians, quite frankly. So it’s important, I think, that the patients really want to have a trusted source of information. And I think that’s where we as physicians can really come in and provide that reassurance and that education. That’s a huge piece of what I do on the phone is mostly just kind of educate people about what they can do to mitigate their risk of contracting COVID-19 or once they do have it, what they can do to lower the chances of having severe complications and hearing in the hospital.

Those folks who are very, very sick, they kind of underestimated COVID-19. They’re like, oh, it’s no big deal. I thought it’d be fine. And then they end up getting very, very sick and sitting in the hospital for a week or two weeks, even three or four weeks, sometimes on a ventilator, extremely sick. So, you know, from that side, you can kind of see both extremes of the patient perspective. I think, my fellow colleagues are just feeling overwhelmed, right?

I mean, that’s the bottom line is there’s only so much of us. We only have so much time in the day. We can only talk and educate so many, so many patients. And the number of messages and emails and telephone calls we’re getting is just overwhelming. We want to respond to all that. We want to reach out to all of them. But we’re only there’s only so many of us. And then furthermore, in the hospital, we’re being stretched so thin.

Typically, a typical team in the hospital that I’m covering will carry anywhere from seven to 14 patients. And we’re having teams of 16, 18, 20 patients just because we’re being so overwhelmed. Our E.R. is backed up for hours and hours. So everything is being strained. Our resources are spread so thin in terms of not just medical equipment, but people. That’s our most valuable resource, which I think is stretched thin right now, where a lot of my colleagues are picking up extra shifts.

But then that eats into their own wellness, their own ability, right? I always tell people the oxygen analogy. When you get on the airplane, the flight attendant always tells you must put your own oxygen mask on first before you can help someone else with their oxygen mask. And right now, health care workers in general, whether it be nurses or doctors or even folks who phlebotomists, who draw blood or IVs, workers who clean the hospital, everyone’s being stretched so thin that we’re not able to put our own oxygen mask on.

We’re not able to find the time to exercise, to eat right because we’re working so hard and we’re being really innovative in terms of how we care for patients. But still, there are only so many hours in the day and so many people to do that.

Sean Hashmi, MD

COVID Vaccines have come out. And I think they’re a huge blessing. And I was fortunate enough to get one as well. But as they’ve come out, I’ve seen sort of so many discussions and chatter and it’s multiple for some people.  They feel like great vaccines are out.

I don’t need to wear a mask. Others, like vaccines are just a way to mind control people or you’re not effective or, you know, the studies are lying. Let me ask you, and because you’re doing so much work in this.  As you hear this, and you’re going to have so many people watching this video who are non-health care folks and health care folks. What is the message that you tell people and what is that effort that we all ought to be thinking about with vaccines?

Alex McDonald, MD

Well, I guess, first, when I found out that I was eligible to get my vaccine, I literally dropped everything I was doing and I went right away and I got my vaccine almost two weeks ago. And so I practice what I preach. I think that’s really important. Any time educate my patients, I don’t ask them to do anything I wouldn’t do myself. So I got my COVID-19 vaccine as well.

I think, there are… A few pieces to that question into the problem that you alluded to. So one is, is yes, this is light at the end of the tunnel. This feels like there’s some hope. But we’re looking like six or nine months down the road before we can vaccinate enough people to reach sort of what’s called herd immunity, right? Where enough of us are vaccinated, that we kind of really stop that spread or really mitigate the spread.

What that exact number is, is up for debate. Some people say 60 percent. Some people say 70. Some people say 90 percent. So it’s really important that until we can vaccinate at least 60 or 70 percent of the population, we need to make sure we continue to wear masks. We continue to social distance. We continue to avoid unnecessary travel and exposure. So that’s the number one thing I’ve been telling patients is, yes.  The COVID vaccine is here.

I hope it will work as well as we’re all believing it to be. I think it should. Based on all the evidence thus far. But it’s not it doesn’t mean we can let our guard down. We must keep being diligent. We must keep helping each other to stay diligent as well. So that’s the number one thing. The number two thing I’m hearing from a lot of people about the vaccine is It was rushed. It was rushed to delivery via operation warp speed, right?

And they’re really anxious and nervous about it, right? Usually, vaccines take years and years to develop, right? And the key here is that the vaccine, the vaccine has been in development for years. Everyone remembers SARS about a decade ago, SARS one, right. This is the same type of virus, the same protein which they’re developing the antigen against for the vaccine, right. So, this vaccine has really been developed for the last decade or so.

Now, operation warp speed in the funding from the federal government just kind of pushed it across the finish line, right. Which was hugely valuable and then furthermore allowed the companies to ramp up production before they really knew it provided a bit of a financial safety blanket for a lot of these companies to. Operation Warp Speed is maybe not the best name, but it was important to help kind of push this vaccine across the finish line.

I’ve had a lot of colleagues and people I know who actually were involved in the trials back in the summer, in the fall, and because we had sort of this natural experiment where COVID-19 was rampant across the country, we could really get the data we needed to ensure safety and efficacy, the effectiveness of this vaccine in a very short period of time, typically. So, it was a whole series of factors that were involved in this, too. And personally, I looked at the data, I looked at the research.

I’ve spoken to some of my colleagues about this. I feel comfortable putting the vaccine into my own body.  When it’s approved for children. I’ll probably do the same for my children as well. It’s a little bit early for that. So, I encourage anyone who’s high risk and who works in health care to learn more, to talk to somebody. If you’re anxious about these, you have questions. Talk to somebody. Right? Like I said before, I’m a health adviser.

I advise my patients and that my advice to most people is the COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective. But we must talk about what your concerns are and how we address those individual concerns, too. So, it’s not, yes, you can have blanket statements, but I really encourage people, if you have questions, if you have concerns, talk to a physician, talk to a nurse, talk to someone who, you know, who you trust, who has good information.

Sean Hashmi, MD

What would you say about some of the people’s concerns around side effects? What I find interesting now is and there’s a couple of good sites, including Bloomberg, that is tracking how many vaccines across the world have been given. And when you look at the millions of vaccines and as of today already have been given and the side effects being so minimal.  Now we have so many different types of vaccines, the data to and the side effects of those compared to this.

It’s fascinating that even though that’s the case, the press and the media will show that there was one reaction that, oh, my God, somebody had a fever. What do you say to that? To the people who say we’re not worried about the side effects.

Alex McDonald, MD

Yeah, I mean, I tell people nothing is one hundred percent safe. Say nothing is one hundred percent safe, right? Getting in your car and driving to the grocery store, you could potentially get into a car accident. For me, it’s all about the risks and the benefits, right. What are the potential risks of COVID-19? What are the potential benefits of the vaccine, right? And for me, any time we make any kind of medical decision, whether it be surgery or medication, I always think about the risks and benefits. And for me, vaccines, it’s almost a no brainer. The potential benefits far, far outweigh any potential risks. I do get a little frustrated at the media sometimes in terms of the anaphylaxis and the reactions are sort of catch more attention and try to sell more headlines, unfortunately. I think the numbers are infinitesimal compared to the number of vaccines given. So, the side effects are really, really the serious side effects are very, very low.

And it should be noted that any of those people who had the anaphylaxis, the allergic reaction to the vaccine, were treated safely and have no long-term side effects to that should always be follow up the headline, right. The second piece is that some side effects are expected. When I had my COVID-19 vaccine, my arm was sore for a day or two. But that means it’s working, right?

That means it’s doing its job. Your immune system is sort of revving up the army, so to speak, so it can be ready to fight off COVID-19 if you do get exposed. So, I know I haven’t had my second dose yet. I’m going to get my second dose next week, actually, and I’ll definitely share on social media with everyone my side effects, if I do have any of those side effects. It’s been shown from my understanding, the second dose is more likely to actually develop some side effects, headache, fatigue, maybe a little low-grade fever for one or maybe two days.

And that’s normal. That means the vaccine is working, right? If you don’t have side effects, that makes me nervous. Maybe it’s not working quite as well. So, I tell people you should expect some side effects when you get a vaccine because that means your body is developing, building up the antibodies, building up the army to protect yourself if you are exposed to the virus.

Sean Hashmi, MD

You know what’s interesting about the whole concept of side effects and everything is I really think it does get overblown a little bit. I had some muscle soreness is not any different from what I’ve had from the vaccination in the past. But when people have asked me, why did you get vaccinated? And I said…It is the single most effective way I knew to protect my own family. Because in this case, I worry so much about my family. I work in a situation where I am in COVID-19 positive patients all the time. In and out.

And as a result of that, I’m coming home to my young children, to my wife, who’s immunosuppressed. And when I do that, there’s so much concern that I have in getting the vaccine for me is indirectly being able to protect them in the best way I know how.

I notice you have some social media tags that are going around. Tell me a little bit about that because I’m really interested.

Alex McDonald, MD

Sure, sure.  So, the main one we have is this is our shot, right? A little bit of a pun there, a play on words, and maybe a bit of a shout out to Lyndonville Miranda in the Hamilton musical. So, the California Medical Association, in conjunction with the California Department of Public Health and the governor’s office, realize they maybe not the best messengers for this vaccine. We physicians who have been inoculated are probably the best messenger for this vaccine. So, they reached out to some of the younger physicians and CMA and the young physician section who are a little more social media and tech-savvy and asked us to sort of help lead this charge to some degree.

So, this was a few weeks before Christmas. And then it’s ballooned across the nation. We have ten medals, major medical organizations interested and involved. We have health care influencers from New York City to Chicago to Arizona to Wisconsin who is interested in helping spread this message and spread this news. So, we’re trying to help organize folks. We’re trying to help encourage physicians to engage in conversation, to educate, and to really be ambassadors for #thisisourshot, right.

This is our shot to get back to some sense of normal to be able to not think about COVID-19 twenty-four hours a day. But it’s also our shot to keep ourselves healthy and to keep our patients healthy and to keep our communities healthy, too. I love what you said. Typically, when I see a patient, it’s usually a younger male who doesn’t want to get the flu shot, for example. I say don’t do it for yourself.

Do it for your family; do it for your grandma; do it for your baby. Right. Those people who are at higher risk. So, I always encourage people to think about vaccines. We can all do a little bit with our shot together to help everyone stay healthy and to help our whole communities. So that’s a bit of word that’s come from. And where it’s going, I don’t exactly know. It’s taken a bit of a life of its own, but it’s pretty fun connecting with some of these amazing health care leaders across the nation.

Sean Hashmi, MD

So how do the people watching, both health care providers and the general public? What can they do to sort of support this purpose in this mission?

Alex McDonald, MD

Yeah, so I think people. And can share their own experience about the cold vaccine and share what they know and what they’ve done, if they’ve gotten it to post their selfie or their vaxxie, I guess, is the new term for the vaccine. I guess so. I don’t know. It was in The New York Times list of terms. It trends on Twitter for what it’s worth. But I think also, too, is making sure particularly for health care workers.

And we’re really the ambassadors here in so many respects, right. We can educate our patients, but not only our patients, we can educate our fellow physicians, our nurses, our phlebotomists, or even staff. These people who maybe don’t have a science background or medical training, but who are very, very high risk because of their jobs and because of their exposure as well. So, I encourage everyone to share information, to look for accurate information too.

And when you hear disinformation or potentially misleading information to question it, maybe both internally and publicly as well, too. Because there is a lot of information out there and I think there’s a lot of misinformation out there, too. So, not just sort of accepting what reaffirms our own worldview, but really kind of questioning what the source is, what the motivation is. And if you do have questions to talk to your doctor. Talk to your family and your friends and people who are medical experts in this field.

Sean Hashmi, MD

I think what you allude to is probably the most important thing.

We live in an age where there’s no lack of information.  It’s actually information overload. For every opinion, there are 10 different ones you can see on Twitter or Facebook, or name your social media, fill in the blank. The hardest thing is trying to decide who is talking about the truth. In the best way to do that is exactly what you’re describing, is to look for reputable sources, make sure that whatever data there is. My role is to look at nutrition studies. And so that’s what I do as part of my work at SCPMG.

And when I do that, the way that I look at science is there’s no such thing as absolute black or absolute white in science. It doesn’t exist. Everything is about you. Take a study and then you look for can it be reproduced in the different populations and different set of circumstances. And the more times you can have that same sort of outcome, more and more studies replicated. The more strength and validity of that argument. That’s sort of my approach to it.

Sean Hashmi, MD

But trying to find a definitive yes or no is incredibly difficult.

Alex McDonald, MD

Right. Yeah, if the answer is too simplistic, it’s probably inaccurate or incomplete. Typically, this is what I tell patients. And this is and to your point, therefore I love listening to your nutrition lectures because you do take it within context. And for anyone else who maybe I’m preaching to the choir here. If there are involved in your podcasts and your lecture series. That’s what I love about listening to your talks, is because you take that information and you put it within context, right.

And it’s not a yes or no.  Most of the medicine is grey, right.  And taking those new on and who apply to it or not.  So, point very well taken.  For sure, I agree.

Sean Hashmi, MD

So, to bring all this home, let me now kind of put you on the spot a little bit. If you have to say these are the most important things for everybody watching that they could be doing right now to keep themselves safe, to keep others safe. If you had to come up with a short list, what do you think would be those items?

Alex McDonald, MD

I think number one wear a mask when you’re outside of your home. Number two, try and stay at least six feet away from people. Number three: minimize any unnecessary travel or exposure. And then fourthly, the real spread of this vaccine is when people seem to let their guard down for Thanksgiving. People kind of got together with families and they thought it was it was safe and that we saw a lot of exposure and contact there.

It takes one person to expose a whole family member of twenty. I had a horrible, heartbreaking story of a Down syndrome young man who ended up getting exposed from a family member. We know folks with Down syndrome have a higher risk of complications of COVID, ended up in the hospital for a week, right.  Because of one family member who got together at Thanksgiving. And so, it’s when people let their guard down, particularly these small family gatherings and like, oh, well, you’re being safe and I’m being safe.

So, it’s fine. I encourage everyone to be diligent, to not let their guard down. That’s when you sort of increase the risk of exposure. So, keep the family gatherings small, less than ten people if you can, and even if you can do it outside, continue to wear masks. And then lastly, when you have the opportunity, I encourage you to get your COVID-19 vaccine unless you have some major medical contraindications, speak to your health care provider.

If you do have concerns, getting your COVID-19 vaccine when it is available. I think is the number one thing we can do to get back to some sense of normalcy. I don’t think life is ever going to be normal again, quite frankly, or the same. But I think that’s really, really important from everything we know, folks sort of follow those sorts of five rules. I think it was five maybe was four.

Sean Hashmi, MD

It is excellent advice. And one point I do want to reiterate to everybody watching is if you do get the COVID vaccine you still must wear a mask. You still must practice physical distancing. In fact, we’ve had at least two instances that I know within our organization where people who just had vaccine a week ago or so, assumed that everything was great. They went on and got together and now they are COVID-19 positive.   Once again, vaccines take time to work. And even if you get the vaccine and it’s been time, you still have an obligation to wear a mask because people have to serve as role models and lead by example. If you’re not wearing a mask, then your family members feel that my dad, my mom, my sister, my brother, they don’t do it, why do I have to do it.

Alex McDonald, MD

Right. Yeah, I completely agree with you. And I think I think the other thing, too, and it’s a bit of a nuanced point, and I hesitate even to bring it up because it might muddle the message. But I think it’s important that your viewers know that the way the COVID-19 vaccine studies were designed is they just looked at symptoms.

Alex McDonald, MD

They don’t didn’t look at the transmission. We know the COVID-19 vaccine is ninety-five percent lowers the risk of developing symptoms. We don’t know yet if it actually reduces the risk of transmission of whether someone can be an asymptomatic spreader, which is why it’s so important to keep wearing a mask, even if you get your COVID-19 vaccine. We everything we know about virology and immunology, chances of the vaccine, lowering your risk of spreading it is very, very good.

Alex McDonald, MD

But we don’t actually have that data yet. So that’s another reason why we absolutely have to keep wearing masks until we can get more information and more data to know if the vaccine actually reduces the asymptomatic spread of the virus.

Sean Hashmi, MD

That is absolutely an excellent point and more reason to practice just with general safety precautions that we should be doing anyway. So, what’s interesting is I heard this term they said, as you think about distancing practice physical distance, not social distance. The concept being talk to one another, call somebody up, all those things that we do are more important now than ever because there is depression, there is isolation. There is a sense of loneliness that occurs in these kinds of settings.

Alex McDonald, MD

Yeah, I completely agree with you. And I think I tell people that that COVID-19 took everything and turn the volume up to 11, right. Whether it be depression or anxiety or social isolation, a lot of the things I’m seeing in the outpatient world, patients are anxious and worried about COVID-19, but their pre-existing anxiety and issues are bubbling up as well, too. So, it’s kind of taking everything and turning the heat up and turning the volume up on everything across society in so many different respects, too.

So, the mental health consequences of COVID-19 are probably going to last for years, honestly, and I think it’s important to know that there is help. There are resources not only for health care workers who are dealing with this in the trenches but for the community as well. Full disclosure, my wife is a psychiatrist. I guess I should say that before going on. But I think the mental health impacts are going to be innumerable and will be sort of the second wave or the third or fourth wave, whatever wave we are on now to make sure that you don’t ignore your mental health.

Right. Which is why diet, sleep, exercise, stress relief more important now during the COVID-19 pandemic than even before, quite frankly.

Sean Hashmi, MD

This has been fantastic. And I want to thank you so much for coming on the show and sharing this stuff. I think it’s incredibly valuable. And I also want to add, I want to bring you back so we can talk about your training and all sorts of stuff because there are so many people who would love to hear how you train and how people who are already in shape, they can take it to that next level or haven’t even started yet on how they can get started?

Alex McDonald, MD

I’d be happy to put on my sports medicine hat or my former professional athlete hat and chat more. I’m honored to be on here. Thank you so much for inviting me. It’s really been a brilliant privilege.

Sean Hashmi, MD

The privilege is all ours. And as you know, I’m a big fan of yours and literally I’m a fan every morning. And so, I appreciate what you do. And I can’t wait to have you back on.

Alex McDonald, MD

Thank you, sir. Appreciate it.

Sean Hashmi, MD

Thank you.

Default image
Sean Hashmi MD
Articles: 56

Don't miss out on the latest updates!

Enter your email address below to subscribe to our newsletter

Subscribe To Newsletter
Be the first to get latest updates and exclusive content straight to your email inbox.
Stay Updated
Give it a try, you can unsubscribe anytime.