Dr. Bethany Wait • The Good of Goshen

Dr. Bethany Wait

Health Officer, Elkhart County

A year ago, I was in the ICU and I had just gotten off BiPAP. A year ago, COVID devastated my body and my career.

I was in private practice, I was delivering babies, I was doing outpatient medicine, inpatient medicine, working 60-70 hours a week. I knew come January, when I was still on oxygen, that I wasn’t going to be able to return to that level of working. I was still very tired; long COVID is for real. I was very much knee deep in that. I needed to look for a different job.

It was hard sitting on the sidelines. I knew I couldn’t help. It wasn’t possible for me to help. I think why this job attracted me was that I was able to lean into the pandemic in a way I hadn’t been able to previously.

I practiced at Goshen Family Physicians for 10 years. I was named the Elkhart County health officer in January.

I hit the ground running, that’s for sure.

I’ve really kind of navigated the public sector. I’ve always been in the private sector, so things just work differently. I think I talk about the budget every day. In private practice, I talked about the budget for about two weeks a year and just kind of glanced at it throughout the year. I’m constantly looking for grants that the Health Department can apply for to bring dollars into the community to target different groups of individuals.

The vaccine rollout, I think, was the big thing that happened for me. By the time I got in there, set-up for testing and contact tracing was already well underway. This whole concept of how we get an entire county vaccinated was lots of strategy, lots of teamwork on how we were going to distribute this vaccine all throughout the county.

The vaccine rollout, I think, was the big thing that happened for me. By the time I got in there, set-up for testing and contact tracing was already well underway. This whole concept of how we get an entire county vaccinated was lots of strategy, lots of teamwork on how we were going to distribute this vaccine all throughout the county.

Now we’re not overrun. Now we’re to the point in the transition where we have enough vaccines for the people who want them. Now we get to do that transition of what a health department is supposed to do, and that’s education. Going out into the community and reaching those community members who still don’t have the knowledge that they need to make the decision to get vaccinated. We can help them do that.

I think that’s going to be the most gratifying time so far. Now through July is just really getting out in the community and actually talking to community members and answering their questions and getting them vaccinated. That’s really exciting to me.

It’s going to be COVID-driven for the next three years. Why that is is because a lot of the federal grants that are coming out are driven by COVID. All of them tend to be linked to COVID: chronic diseases and COVID-19, health equity and COVID-19, health literacy and COVID-19. So no, COVID’s not over.

Going forward in general, let’s not forget the simple things like washing our hands, covering our mouths when we cough, and not going places when we’re sick. We didn’t see any flu in Elkhart County this year, and that was strictly because of these mitigation factors that we’ve been doing.”

Writing and editing by Scott Weisser and Neil King

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