Dentists Against Coronavirus is a Facebook group with over 34,000 current members that is exclusively FOR dentists. The group membership exploded in less than one week. Only four days after it was created on March 12, 2020, the group gained an amazing 20,000 members. In a time where we would normally feel isolated and alone, social media has become a virtual gathering place for dentists to look for support, ask for advice, share memes and work through this together. So many educators and industry experts have come together during this time to offer free advice so that we can all come out of this healthy and successful!
I got the chance to interview Dr. Eszter Kiss – the founder of the Facebook group, via none other than Facebook messenger. She currently lives in Bern, Switzerland, and has been practicing for 20 years.
Could you delve into some of your background? Where did you grow up, where do you practice, etc.?
I was born in Hungary and grew up with socialism in the 1980s. My family and my schools taught me critical thinking, not to believe or accept all things as they are being told. I was raised by a single mother with a motto: You can only count on yourself, and with a sense of humor, you can survive everything. At 24, I opened my first dental practice in the outskirts of Budapest. It was 18 square meters altogether. I worked there for more than a decade. I believe in small practices. They are cozy, and the patients are awesome. It’s like a big family! The changes and financial planning are less stressful, as well. I also spent a few years in the British NHS, where I first experienced how important it is to discuss things with your dentist friends. This is a lonely profession, and we don’t even have time for ourselves or our families. Competition is high, and you don’t know who to trust. It is a gift to find some like-minded colleagues you can talk to. For a short while, I studied life and business coaching, which helped me overcome perfectionism and support others in their goals. I taught dental nurses for one year before I came to Switzerland in 2014. I have been working here in my own small practice since then.
Why did you start the Facebook group?
Since the outbreak in China, I have been looking for resources about what to do in the dental practice to avoid cross-infection and self-contamination. I wanted to be prepared. I was curious how the Chinese dentists handled the virus, but I couldn’t find anything. I was searching the WHO website and various dental associations for information, there was nothing specific for dentists. I looked into some dental groups I subscribe to, and nobody seemed to care about the coming pandemic. Now that the pandemic reached Switzerland, I felt our dental community was paralyzed and unaware of the consequences of postponing to take action. I felt an increasing pressure to stand up and think together, or at least inform other dentists in countries where the virus had not been as widespread. I just wanted to talk to some colleagues … Now we are over 22.000 members in only four days.
What’s the situation like in your area?
Switzerland took things quite relaxed and slow. Hardly anyone took the outbreak in China seriously. However, I made a pandemic plan for the practice well before any official recommendations. I ordered some advanced PPE to survive a few weeks of possible crisis and started screening and asking all my patients to disinfect their hands on entering. Some of them refused, so I started to educate them about infection control. After Italy was run down by the virus, we still kept the borders wide open. The infection then started to spread here rapidly, but reactions seemed too mild. Meanwhile, the country ran out of disinfectants and all kinds of face masks. Moreover, Germany stopped exporting both of these times. People started stealing masks, respirators and disinfectants from hospitals. Meanwhile, our country managed to rank in second place after Italy on the list of cases per million population. Our healthcare is of high quality, but the resources are quite limited. There are around 10 ICU ventilators per 100,000 people. The state of emergency was announced on March 16th, and dentists can see only emergency patients until April 19th at the earliest. To be honest, I was relieved to hear that, and our patients accepted these measures really well.
Thoughts on what the future is to bring?
This is going to be a tough time for everybody, and we all have to take part in caring for those in need. If we all could keep our life simple without the greed to consume more and more, the coming months would be less painful. I still trust in solidarity, however I also know human nature … Communities will play a great role in surviving the coming period. It might sound contradictory in these times of social distancing, but I think our group is an interesting example of this.