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Dr. Brian Gosser petted his 8-month-old St. Bernard, Clare, outside the camper he quarantined himself in after he started feeling sick. Gosser, an OB/GYN, has quarantined in the camper outside his home in Sunset Hills even though he tested negative for COVID-19.
Dr. Brian Gosser petted his 8-month-old St. Bernard, Clare, outside the camper he quarantined himself in after he started feeling sick. Gosser, an OB/GYN, has quarantined in the camper outside his home in Sunset Hills even though he tested negative for COVID-19.
Photo Credit: Lisa Johnston

Catholic doctors share hope, faith as they continue to care for patients during pandemic

Practices have seen a decrease in office visits, switch to telemedicine in some cases

Dr. Brian Gosser’s home these days has been a 28-foot camper in the driveway of his Sunset Hills home.

The Catholic OB/GYN began showing signs of illness, and he’s quarantined himself from his family. Through a Facebook group called RVs for MDs, someone he hadn’t met lent him the use of the camper. He sees it as one of many blessings he’s witnessed through the coronavirus pandemic.

Dr. Gosser
“Here’s a doctor trying to care for people, and someone wanted to help,” he said. “God wants us to focus on truth, beauty and goodness in the hard times, and I am amazed to see how people are reaching out to one another. I get choked up thinking about it — that somebody I’ve never met has my back. I am sitting in this camper because I am a danger to my family, but I don’t have to be far away from them. I can still FaceTime, and we pray the family Rosary together.”

Although Gosser isn’t on the front line working directly with patients who have COVID-19, being in a health care setting increases his chances of exposure. Gosser recently tested negative for the virus, but will continue to quarantine until it is safe to return to work and his family.

Gosser said the virus has had an impact on his practice, St. Joseph OB/GYN in Fenton. Overall, office visits have slowed down, especially among patients who do not have pressing needs. “In talking with our pregnant patients, they are anxious,” he said. “We are definitely looking at strategies to minimize exposure. In our office, if we don’t need to see you for 12 weeks, we’re going to keep you out of the office.”

He also recently recorded a video for St. Joseph Evangelization Network, in which he spoke about a faith response to the pandemic and following the Lord in the midst of suffering. “What are we to do in the face of a pandemic?” he asked. “What is happening in the

Dr. Abraham
world? And how can we make a difference? … The first step is realizing we need God.”

Dr. Elizabeth Abraham, a Catholic pediatrician with St. Teresa Pediatrics in Shrewsbury, has been maintaining normal business hours, but has made some modifications, such as scheduling well-child visits in the morning and handling sick cases later in the day. She also is seeing some sick patients by video and phone or a hybrid approach, in which patients stay in the car for the exam. She and her staff also have been taking precautions, such as wearing protective equipment and using a wireless scope to maintain distance.

While no one has tested positive for the virus, “eventually it will happen,” she said. The number of in-person visits have slowed down, and they miss seeing their patients. She said staff continue to come in as long as they are not showing signs of illness, and every morning begins with prayer, as they’ve always done. “That’s one thing that has not changed,” she said. “We’re praying for an end to this pandemic.”

Dr. David Stansfield, a Catholic family medicine provider in Hillsboro, said he, too, has seen a decrease in the number of in-person visits. “We’re used to seeing 20 to 30 people a day between me and a physician’s assistant, and now we’re down to eight to 10 a day in the office, plus a few telephone and telemedicine visits,” said Stansfield, president of the St. Louis Guild of the Catholic Medical Association.

Dr. Stansfield
The majority of his patients are older, and he’s been seeing them via telemedicine when possible. Some patients have tested positive for COVID-19, but the staff have followed up with telemedicine visits, as well as making referrals to nearby Mercy Hospital Jefferson in Festus for testing.

Handwashing before seeing a patient is always part of a doctor’s routine. Stansfield prays a Hail Mary while he washes his hands, and offers a quiet intention for each patient. He’s also had a chance to talk with patients during visits about their fears related to the pandemic.

“With some patients, we have more time with and we will talk about faith issues they might be struggling with or the whys of a pandemic,” he said. “A lot of times people know people who have it, or patients who have had it themselves. I tell them that God has His ways of making us take a step back and to reflect on the gifts that He’s given. He holds us in the palm of His hand and we can see His providence in this.”

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