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Arthur Lavin, M.D., FAAP, visits with a patient. Courtesy of Akron Children's Hospital/Ted Stevens

Pediatrician fills need for reliable information during pandemic

March 1, 2022

Editor's note: As the COVID-19 pandemic enters its third year, Arthur Lavin, M.D., FAAP, is one of six pediatricians reflecting on what keeps him going, the lessons he's learned along the way and his hopes for the future. To read all six reflections, click here.

As the world was just learning about COVID-19 in January 2020, Arthur Lavin, M.D., FAAP, was visiting his son in Hong Kong.

“By the end of January, it was all over China and we felt it coming down into southern China and threatening Hong Kong,” Dr. Lavin said. “We flew to come back to the United States, only to find out we would have been much better off if we stayed in Hong Kong.”

Dr. Lavin praised areas of Southeast Asia, including Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea, for early “identify and isolate” strategies meant to limit the spread of the virus in the region.

Back home, however, Dr. Lavin feels more could have been done to help U.S. residents and families deal with the virus. As a general pediatrician at Akron Children’s Hospital in Ohio, he has seen the impacts of COVID-19.

“I saw families really suffering, striving to find some way to keep themselves and their children from dying from this potentially fatal disease,” Dr. Lavin said. “You get a lot of people who may turn to me and to other pediatricians and say, ‘What do I do?’ I knew there was a better path.”

A month after returning home, Dr. Lavin started a blog that he updated almost daily with information about COVID-19. At its peak, the blog had more than 100,000 visitors, he said.

“Families were desperate for guidance, and I felt one of the most important things I could do was create a reliable source of information,” Dr. Lavin said. “There was so much misinformation coming out, and this, sadly, became such a politicized topic.”

In addition to providing as much information as he could, Dr. Lavin’s practice stayed open throughout the pandemic.

“Like all providers, we saw heartbreaking stories of parents dying, grandparents dying and we probably diagnosed over 300 children with COVID during the pandemic, some as young as 3 weeks of age,” Dr. Lavin said. “Fortunately, most of them are quite well.”

In addition to COVID-19’s physical toll, he has seen the mental anguish the virus has caused.

Dr. Lavin said many patients who previously were diagnosed with anxiety, depressive disorders, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder or autism spectrum disorder have fared worse during the pandemic, particularly with COVID-related shutdowns.

“It’s just been a terrible exacerbation of already existing conditions,” said Dr. Lavin, chair of the AAP Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family Health.

As the pandemic enters its third year, parents continue to seek his advice. Dr. Lavin said he and his peers are more than willing to answer families’ questions.

“If a doctor is not interested in helping people during the greatest medical crisis of our lifetime, then you’re in the wrong profession,” he said.

“I have been asked the same questions many, many times,” he continued. “Even though it’s the same questions, each family is different. Each person is different. Each need is a little different. I get to be in a position to be helping somebody through a real crisis. That’s not just satisfying, it’s deeply meaningful. I feel very honored that I’m put in a position of trust by families.”

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